Hearing Loss Overview
Hearing loss is a medical condition in which the auditory system is not fully functioning. With normal hearing, the outer ears pick up the sound that passes through your ear canal before it hits the ear.
Your eardrum movements trigger movements in your ear bones, which causes fluid to move in your inner ear. This motion is collected by your hair cells in the inner ear that relay sound signals. The brain understands these signals as sound.Hearing loss occurs when one or more of these steps are hindered.
How common is hearing loss?
- Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the US. It affects approximately 20 percent or 48 million Americans.
- Hearing loss occurs at higher rates among older Americans. One person in three 65 years of age and older has hearing loss while 50% of people over 85 years have hearing loss.
- Of every 1000 school-age children, 30 experience hearing loss. Approximately 1 to 6 in 1,000 babies are born with rare genetic hearing loss.
- Around 60 percent of people in the workforce have some level of hearing loss.
- Approximately 60% of veterans from combat areas register hearing loss and tinnitus.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are three forms of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss involves both the structures of the outer and middle ear. Conductive hearing loss causes include ear canal and middle ear malformations, head injuries, cancers, tumors, excessive earwax, or other diseases.
Sensorineural hearing loss is found in the internal ear structure and the inner ear hair cells. It commonly involves damage to these hair cells, making them unable to turn sound vibrations into sound signals. Causes of sensorineural ear loss include loud noise exposure, aging, head trauma, and Meniere's disease.
Mixed hearing loss is a mixture of conductive and sensorineural hearing losses where separate auditory system elements (outer, middle, and inner ear) are impaired or affected by some combination of the above factors.
Hearing loss may be classified by degree (slight, mild, moderate, severe, profound) and impact one or both ears.
Hearing experts believe that tinnitus occurs in 80 to 90% of hearing loss cases. Tinnitus is a disorder where one hears sounds without any sound being present in the room. Often referred to as the "ringing of the ears," tinnitus could range in sound from a ringing to a whistle to a rumble. Tinnitus sounds are different for each person that experiences them and can be identified as chronic or intermittent.
Tinnitus has no singular cause but is associated with sensorineural hearing loss. Damage to the inner ear cells is thought to result in tinnitus, as damaged cells "leak" sound. Many hearing aid manufacturers have fitted their hearing aids with tinnitus therapy features to assist wearers with tinnitus symptoms.
Signs you may have hearing loss
Hearing loss is an invisible condition, meaning people don't always immediately notice that their hearing abilities have altered.
Common symptoms of hearing loss include the following:
- You have difficulty keeping on top of conversations involving more than two people.
- You think others sound like they're mumbling.
- You have trouble hearing in noisy situations (restaurants, malls, crowded conference rooms)
- You read lips or watch people's faces closely as they talk to you.
- You reply inappropriately in conversations.
- You turn the volume up on the TV louder than others would like it.
- You get upset with others because you can hear them or understand them.
- You've stopped going to a social event you once enjoyed due to hearing issues.
Hearing Loss Treatment
If you identified with any of the above statements, you might have a hearing loss. People wait for an average of seven years from first experiencing hearing loss to the moment they decide to seek care. Treating early hearing loss is vital for your emotional and social well-being. Hearing loss is most often managed with hearing aids fitted to suit your particular hearing needs.
The first stage in managing hearing loss is a hearing test. We include extensive hearing testing and help you find a treatment plan to help rekindle your connections with your loved ones.
Benefits of Treating Hearing Loss
While hearing loss is a common condition, individuals wait an average of seven years before seeking treatment. Untreated hearing loss will take a significant toll on a person's health and relationships during this period. Hearing loss is often undetected because the symptoms are not apparent physically. Around the same time, several detrimental effects arise when hearing loss is not addressed as quickly and efficiently as possible.
If you find that your hearing capacity is changing, consider taking a hearing test. This is a simple process for determining your hearing skills. Once hearing loss is present, the diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss with a hearing aid provide many real advantages to a person's life. Let's look at a few of these benefits.
Better earning potential
Approximately 48 million Americans suffer hearing loss, including an estimated 60 percent of the workforce. In a study of earnings levels of individuals with hearing loss (both treated and untreated) with similar jobs, marital status, age, sex, and lifestyles, it was concluded that those who have moderate to severe hearing loss without a hearing aid have household earnings of $5,000 to $6,000 less than those who use hearing aids.
Hearing aids facilitate connectivity – meaning consistency in meetings and between colleagues. Hearing aids can also enhance your thinking skills and improve your work performance, memory, and productivity.
Better social relationships
Most of us recognize that good contact is the basis for healthy relationships: spouses, partners, family members, friends, and colleagues. Many people who suffer hearing loss first notice it when they have difficulty deciphering speech in loud environments. Repeating loved ones repeatedly can cause friction and irritation.
Not only that, but higher-frequency voices (especially those of women and children) are incredibly difficult for people to hear, as hearing loss tends to affect the higher pitches initially. By managing hearing loss, it will improve communication in our most critical relationships.
Improved cognitive skills
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have reported a possible correlation between untreated hearing loss and dementia. They found that hearing loss leads to less activity in some areas of the brain that were once used to perceive and interpret sound, while a more significant cognitive load that wears out the brain was generated by the effort to hear and make sense of sounds.
In a separate study conducted in Japan in 2011, scientists monitored participants over three years to perform cognitive assessments. They found that subjects with hearing loss and hearing aids were better equipped with more vital cognitive skills than participants without hearing loss.
This is because hearing aids that help your brain process sound more efficiently. When we suffer from untreated hearing loss, our brain's processing skills work overtime to make sense of ambiguous sound signals. The use of hearing loss with auditory devices reduces the burden on our brains and makes it easier to use our cognitive skills.
More confidence and independence
Our hearing links us with the world around us. Depending on the extent of hearing loss, fire alarms, car horns, doorbells, and a ringing phone may not be heard by the individual with hearing loss. We are more likely to hear these warnings and stay safe by treating hearing loss with hearing aids.
Also, people are equipped with more confidence with a hearing aid to go out into the world without help, allowing for a sense of freedom. In general, this leads to a happier, more active life. People who address hearing loss early on are less likely to feel socially withdrawn and are more likely to continue following the interests and hobbies they enjoyed before losing their hearing.
As you can see, the benefits of treating your hearing loss are too significant to ignore. Find a provider today to begin the process!