There are three general types of hearing loss: conductive, mixed and sensorineural.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when any condition or disease blocks sound from being conducted through the middle ear. The result is that sounds are usually not as loud as they should be. In cases of conductive hearing loss, treating the cause usually improves the hearing.
Sensorineural hearing loss is the result of dysfunction in the inner ear or auditory nerve. The cause of such dysfunction is usually unknown; and while it is not reversible, it is treatable. In addition to causing reduced volume in hearing, sensorineural hearing loss can also result in a loss in clarity of sound. Sensorineural hearing loss is most commonly treated with hearing aids.
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. It may or may not be able to be treated surgically.
Causes of Hearing Loss
There are a number of things that can cause hearing loss. Some of the most common causes include:
- Excessive noise (construction, loud music, gunfire, etc.)
- Infections or illnesses
- Injury to the head or ear
- Birth defects or genetics
- A reaction to drugs or cancer treatment (antibiotics, chemotherapy, radiation, etc.)
Diabetes and Hearing Loss
For years doctors have known there is a link between diabetes and eye health issues. Research now shows that there may be a link between diabetes and hearing loss as well. If you suffer from diabetes, you should have yearly hearing screenings to catch any hearing loss and treat it at the earliest possible stage.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss usually happens gradually. You may not even notice the change in yourself. A yearly hearing screening is the best way to detect if you have experienced hearing loss. Here are some signs that indicate a possible hearing loss:
- You frequently require people to repeat themselves in order to catch what they are saying.
- You find yourself “smiling and nodding” so that people are not aware that you did not understand what they said.
- You have difficulty following conversations that involve more than two people.
- You often think people are mumbling, or that they sound muffled when they are speaking.
- You have a hard time hearing in noisy situations (parties, crowded restaurants, etc.)
- You have trouble hearing certain speakers such as women or children.
- You have to turn your TV or radio up louder in order to hear it.
- You have ringing or other noises in your ears.
- You have trouble identifying where sounds are coming from.
- You find yourself focusing on reading people’s lips when they talk, rather than listening to what they are saying.
- You get annoyed with other people because you can’t hear or understand them.
- You have been exposed to loud noises over an extended period of time or have had single exposure to explosive noise.
- If you are suffering from any of these symptoms, your next step is to simply schedule a hearing screening with our staff and learn how hearing solutions can improve your quality of life.
Myths and Misunderstandings
People have a lot of misconceptions about hearing loss and how it can be treated. Here are some of the common “myths” that people believe about hearing loss, and the truth about each situation.
I’ll have a simple surgery procedure that will restore my hearing.
While there are some types of hearing loss that can be treated with surgery, it only works for 5-10% of those experiencing hearing loss. The majority of hearing loss is most effectively treated with hearing aids.
I still have one good ear, I’ll just use that one.
While one ear may hear better than the other, hearing loss usually occurs in both ears. Relying on the “good” ear can cause further hearing loss in the other ear. You will also find yourself constantly having to turn your good ear toward the sounds you are trying to hear.
Hearing loss is a sign that I’m getting old.
In fact, only 35% of people with hearing loss are over the age of sixty-four. There are close to six million people in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 44 who have hearing loss. Additionally, more than one million school-age children suffer with some degree of hearing loss. All age groups are affected by hearing loss. It is no more a sign of age than needing glasses to correct your vision!
My primary-care doctor would have noticed hearing loss at my annual check-up.
Most primary-care doctors do not screen for hearing at annual exams. They may not detect any hearing loss since you are usually in a very quiet room and speaking one on one when you meet with them.
Hearing loss is just “normal” for someone my age.
While it may be normal to experience hearing loss as we age, that does not mean we need to just “put up with it”. It is normal to experience any number of medical issues, from acne to blurry vision to headaches. That does not mean we have to live with them. Just as you would seek treatment for any of these conditions, you should seek treatment for your hearing loss.
Nothing can be done about my hearing loss.
Many doctors are not aware of the advances that have been made in hearing aids and may mistakenly tell their patients that their hearing loss cannot be treated. Visiting an audiologist is the best first step to finding out what can be done to treat your hearing loss.
Hearing aids will make me look old or handicapped.
With the advanced technologies now available, hearing aids can be virtually undetectable. You will seem much “older” if you constantly have to ask people to repeat themselves or speak up than you will if you wear a hearing aid.
Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss
Perhaps you’ve lived with hearing loss because you feel it is an inevitable part of life. But hearing loss is more than an inconvenience. It can seriously impact your quality of life. Below you will find some very important reasons to have your hearing checked regularly to detect hearing loss early.
Embarrassment over not being able to hear others in conversation causes some people to withdraw socially. This can cause a sense of isolation and loneliness which can lead to depression.
Being unaware of sounds around you can pose a risk to your personal safety. Much of what we learn comes from what we hear. When your hearing is compromised, it can affect your learning and memory.
Untreated hearing loss can actually lead to further hearing loss. When you underuse your natural hearing apparatus, it can atrophy (become weak) causing it to be even harder for you to hear.
Research now shows that there may be a link between hearing loss and Alzheimer’s or Dementia. Hearing loss can cause some people to become socially withdrawn. Strong social connections are believed to combat the effects of Alzheimer’s. Therefore, if you are withdrawing socially due to hearing loss, you may be increasing your risk of Alzheimer’s.
For these reasons and many more, we encourage you to get yearly hearing screenings starting at age fifty. In fact, at The Eye Clinic of Wisconsin, we feel it is so important that we offer free screenings to all patients ages fifty-five and over who come in for a comprehensive eye exam.