Hearing loss is a common but treatable medical condition in the United States. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), there are 36 million adults in America who experience some degree of hearing loss—about 17% of the population.
There can be many dangerous side effects to hearing loss. When left untreated, hearing conditions can lead to a loss of independence, lower self-confidence, and even diminished enjoyment of everyday life.
What Causes Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss falls into three categories, each with different causes: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss. While conductive hearing loss is reversible and usually caused by a blockage in the ear canal, sensorineural hearing loss results from damage to the inner ear or the nerves responsible for hearing. Unfortunately, this type of hearing loss is more common and can be caused by aging, genetics, loud noises, infection, blockage, injury, disease, or medications. Someone with mixed hearing loss has a combination of both hearing loss types.
The most common reasons for hearing loss are explained in more detail below:
- Aging: Hearing loss due to age is known as presbycusis, and it is the gradual loss of hearing over time. It’s caused by the death of tiny hair cells (which do not regrow) and changes to the inner ear that occur with aging. Though frustrating, presbycusis is normal.
- Genetics: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports 50% to 60% of babies born with hearing loss have inherited the condition. People born with the genes for hearing loss are more susceptible to losing their hearing at some point later in life.
- Noise exposure: If you live or work in an environment that consistently exposes you to noises of 85 decibels or higher (heavy traffic, a window AC unit, etc.), you could experience permanent hearing loss.
- Infection: Untreated minor ear infections, which start out as temporary conductive hearing loss, can lead to permanent hearing loss if not properly treated.
- Blockage: In some cases, your struggle to hear may simply be the result of a minor wax obstruction in the ear canal. This is not permanent and can easily be treated with the help of a doctor or hearing professional.
- Injury: Injuries, such as head trauma or loud noises, can lead to sensorineural hearing loss, a result of inner ear damage and/or issues with neural pathways from the ear to the brain.
- Other: Hearing loss can sometimes be attributed to diabetes, high blood pressure, medications, and more. If you’re concerned about any of these conditions and their potential to cause hearing loss, consult your physician.
What Are the Symptoms of Hearing Loss?
Most obviously, people with hearing loss will have difficulty holding conversations on the phone or hearing the TV. They will need to ask people to repeat themselves more frequently. In addition to the general inability to hear sounds and speech clearly, someone with hearing loss may also hear a buzzing or ringing sound.
If you are the parent, sibling, partner, or guardian of someone with hearing loss, you might find that the affected individual withdraws and avoids social settings. At this stage, it is essential to get help.
When to Consult an Audiologist
Hearing loss can start as a mere nuisance, but eventually, it may disrupt your ability to work, keep in touch with family, use the phone, and generally interact with others. It’s important to see a hearing loss professional (audiologist) any time you notice new ear pain, excessive wax buildup, or difficulty hearing. At this point, hearing loss has impacted your quality of life. You shouldn’t wait to address the problem because when you catch hearing loss early enough, you can take steps toward preventing a worsening of your conditions.
Regardless of whether you have symptoms or not, it’s a good idea to have your ears tested regularly by a hearing professional.
How to Prevent Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can’t always be prevented, especially if someone is genetically predisposed; however, you can take simple, preventative measures to slow the effects.
If you attend a concert or sporting event, mow the grass, operate a blender, or travel in a loud vehicle, make it a habit to wear earplugs.
When listening to music using headphones, limit the volume.
Never use cotton swabs to clean your ears, as they can push the wax further into your ear canal and cause an obstruction. Visit your doctor for help instead.
Already experiencing hearing loss? A hearing aid is your friend! Hearing aids will keep your hearing nerve stimulated, preventing it from becoming any weaker. These days, there are small, discreet hearing aids that still provide maximum efficacy—so if you’re self-conscious about wearing one, rest assured knowing that it’s unlikely people will even notice it.
Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, get your hearing checked every year so you can act on any hearing loss you may have.
How to Restore Hearing Loss
Patients commonly ask how to fix hearing loss, and the answer comes down to the origins of their ear problems. If the root cause is an infection or blockage, an audiologist can prescribe you a medication to clear up the infection or use an electric pump to painlessly draw out earwax.
Unfortunately, most hearing loss is sensorineural and cannot be reversed. It can, however, be made easier with the help of a hearing aid that works with your lifestyle.
Find Devices for Your Hearing Loss Today
The world has never been more accommodating to the hearing impaired than it is today. With all the available technology—from captioned telephones to visual alerting instruments to assistive listening devices—you can enjoy high quality of life, free from the constraints of hearing loss.
If you experience hearing loss and need captioned telephone service or would like more information on the CaptionCall no-cost captioned telephone service, contact CaptionCall today.