Hearing loss is one of the most pervasive health issues that people live with today. Over 48 million, or 1 in 6, people have some degree of hearing loss. Though hearing loss is a common medical condition, it is often undertreated. It takes an average of 7 years for people to address hearing loss symptoms. Contributing to this delay in treatment are the numerous misconceptions about hearing loss. This includes that it is not that serious of a health condition and is one that can be cured. Hearing loss not only impacts all facets of daily life – from the most mundane activities like watching TV to spending quality time with others – but it also cannot be cured.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed. The most common type of hearing loss is sensorineural which accounts for around 90% of all hearing loss that is experienced today. This type of hearing loss cannot be cured but there are effective treatment options.
- Sensorineural: occurs in the inner ear where there are thousands of hair cells which play an integral role in how sound is processed. These sensory cells help convert incoming sound waves into electrical signals which get sent to the brain. The brain is then able to further process and assign meaning to these signals, allowing us to understand what we hear. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when hair cells are damaged, becoming desensitized or dying, which prevents them from performing their essential function. There are no medical treatments or interventions that can replenish these cells or correct any damage they experience, resulting in permanent hearing loss.
- Conductive: this type of hearing loss occurs in the outer or middle ear. Ear obstructions prevent soundwaves from being absorbed and reaching the inner ear to be further processed. These physical blockages can include an accumulation of earwax, growths in the ear canal, ear infections, a perforated ear drum etc. This can easily lead to hearing challenges but this is usually temporary. Conductive hearing loss can be treated with medications or minor procedures which restores hearing.
- Mixed: this is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Treatment depends on the exact cause contributing to hearing loss.
There are several factors that can contribute to the development of hearing loss. Understanding these causes illuminates the treatment options that address these causes.
Common Causes of Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss can occur as a result of various factors. Common causes include the following:
- Aging: the risk of developing age related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, increases with age. There are a few factors that contribute to this increased risk including: the cumulative impact of noise exposure on the auditory system, changes the ear may experience over time, and the development of medical conditions which are also correlated with hearing loss.
- Exposure to loud noise: one time or consistently absorption of loud noise can damage the hair cells in the inner ear. These sensory cells send auditory information to the brain – a key step in the process of hearing and understanding sound. Damaged hair cells reduce their capacity to function effectively.
- Medical conditions: extensive research shows that numerous medical conditions increase the risk of developing hearing loss. This includes cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and osteoporosis.
Other causes of hearing loss include inner ear disorders and head injuries. Fortunately, hearing loss can be effectively treated and managed.
Hearing Loss Treatment
There is a wide range of services and resources available to transform your hearing health. The first step is to have your hearing thoroughly evaluated. Hearing tests consist of a painless and noninvasive process that measures hearing capacity in each heart. This noninvasive process identifies any hearing loss and the degree of hearing loss you could be experiencing. Once your hearing needs are known, your hearing healthcare provider is able to establish treatment options that meet those needs.
Hearing aids are the most common way hearing loss is treated. These are prescribed electronic devices that are designed to absorb and process sound. This provides the ears and brain with significant hearing support, maximum hearing capacity. Hearing aids allow people to navigate daily life and communication with greater ease. Contact us today to learn more about treatment and to prioritize your hearing health.