What Causes Hearing Loss?
Common causes of hearing loss include ageing as well as excessive exposure to loud noise. A common sensorineural hearing disorder is known as presbycusis. This refers to hearing loss due to ageing, and is caused by the gradual deterioration of the inner ear structures that happens with increasing age.
Excessive exposure to loud noise is another cause of hearing loss. It is common for us to turn up the volume on our earphones to hear better in a noisy environment like a bus or a train. However, exposure to loud music over time can damage hearing permanently as we become accustomed to louder levels. If this is repeated daily, there will be permanent damage to the inner ear hair cells.
Other causes of hearing loss include trauma from impact, (for example, a blow to the head, accident or explosion) and ear infections, viral or bacterial.
What are the Signs of Possible Hearing Loss?
You complain that people are mumbling or speaking too softly
You often ask people to repeat themselves
You experience a buzzing or ringing sensation in your ears periodically
People say you talk too loudly
You begin to have trouble balancing
You have trouble hearing when you are not facing the person speaking
You find yourself lip-reading
Your family members complain that you turn up the volume of the television too loudly
What are the Consequences?
Hearing is one of our five senses. It helps us to communicate with others and offers protection from danger, e.g., to hear a car horn or fire alarm and move to safety.
Loss of hearing can affect:
Cognitive and literacy development in children
Communication for building and maintenance of healthy relationships
Independent day-to-day living
Learning and employment opportunities
Your confidence in hearing well and interacting meaningfully with people
Individuals with hearing loss often think their situation is hopeless. As their hearing deteriorates, they may withdraw into social isolation and develop depression. However, with the right diagnosis and intervention, they can in fact regain independence, confidence and resume an active lifestyle once again.
Diagnosis of Hearing Loss
Here at Euan’s ENT Surgery & Clinic, we partner with audiologists to help diagnose hearing loss and its severity. Audiologists are healthcare professionals who evaluate, diagnose, treat and manage hearing loss and balance disorders. They offer personalized specialist audiological services to individuals with hearing needs.
Some of the tests used to diagnosis for hearing loss include:
Pure Tone Audiometry
This test assesses your hearing across various frequencies. An audiologist will place a pair of headphones over your ears to test each ear individually. In some cases, the audiologist will place a bone conductor behind your ear to send tiny vibrations to the inner ear. This gives your doctor additional information on your hearing condition to help in the diagnosis.
This is usually done to test the integrity and condition of the eardrum, the middle ear bones and the eustachian tube. It involves putting a small amount of air pressure into the ear canal. Tympanometry helps to diagnose different types of hearing loss.
This test is done where words are played for you to hear in different volumes. This will determine how well you can hear speech and normal conversations.
What are the Treatments for Permanent Hearing Loss?
For people with sensorineural hearing loss, the condition is usually permanent. This is because once the sensitive hair cells in the cochlear are damaged, they cannot be repaired. However, most sensorineural hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and hearing rehabilitation. These treatments can significantly improve your quality of life.
This is an electroacoustic device which is designed to amplify sound for the user. The aim is to make speech more intelligible and to improve hearing.
Implantable devices include:
These implants offer sufficient hearing for a better understanding of speech. The doctor will inform you if you are a suitable candidate for any of these surgeries. Usually, you will undergo several audiological tests to assess your candidacy for such implants.
Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs)
ALDs are designed to improve communication for people with hearing loss and may be used with or without hearing aids or implants. Examples of ALDs are visual indicators and alarms, FM systems, vibro-tactile devices, and telephone connectivity devices.
This is the process of providing training and therapy to improve a patient’s hearing. Rehabilitation services focus on teaching patients to adjust to hearing loss, make the best of hearing aids, explore ALDs, manage daily conversations and background noises, etc.
As you can see, there are many therapeutic options available to help manage your hearing loss nowadays.