Hearing loss is one of the biggest health concerns in the U.S. It is the third most commonly reported physical condition, following arthritis, and heart disease. It affects roughly 20 percent of the American population and can strike people of all ages.
The most common causes of hearing loss are noise exposure and aging.
What Are the Symptoms of a Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is a progressive condition that worsens over time. Symptoms appear so gradually, you may be completely unaware of your hearing loss for some time. Even when hearing loss is suspected, it takes an average of seven years for a person to seek medical treatment.
Knowing the signs is helpful in spurring you to take action sooner. Any of the following might indicate hearing loss:
- Frequently asking people to repeat what they have said.
- Feeling like others mumble when they speak.
- Having difficulty following conversations in which background noise is present.
- Turning up the volume on the television or radio.
- Avoiding social gatherings in noisy places.
Often, a family member or friend will be the first to notice a hearing problem. Since treatment is most effective when begun early, do not hesitate to schedule an appointment with Dr. Schneider.
How is a Hearing Loss Diagnosed?
In order to diagnose hearing loss, your doctor will review your medical history, discuss your listening difficulties, and examine your ears followed by a hearing evaluation consisting of a series of audiological tests.
What Are the Types of Hearing Loss?
Treatment will depend on your type and degree of hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss occurs when there are problems in the outer ear, ear canal, eardrum, or middle ear. It can be caused by any of the following:
- Ear infection.
- Fluid in the ears.
- Malformation or abnormalities of the outer or middle ear.
- Impacted earwax.
- Foreign object in the ear.
- Perforated eardrum.
Conductive hearing loss is often correctable with surgery or medications. Alternatively, it may be treated with hearing aids.
Sensorineural hearing loss involves a problem with the inner ear and/or brain and is frequently referred to as “nerve deafness.” It may be caused by any of these:
- Noise exposure.
- Head trauma.
- Aging (presbycusis).
- Viral disease.
- Autoimmune ear disease.
- Meniere’s disease.
- Malformation or abnormality of the inner ear.
Sensorineural hearing loss is most commonly treated with hearing aids.
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-induced hearing loss can be caused by exposure to a single loud sound, such as a gunshot or explosion, or by continuous exposure to loud noise over a period of time.
When sounds exceed 85 decibels (dB) they are considered hazardous to your hearing health. Continuous exposure to volume levels that high causes permanent damage to the hair cells in your ears.
Activities that put people at risk for noise-induced hearing loss include hunting, riding a motorcycle, listening to music at high volumes, playing in a band, and attending rock concerts. An estimated 15 percent of Americans aged 20 to 69 have hearing loss that may have been caused by noise exposure. This type of hearing loss can be prevented by wearing earplugs and protective devices.
Hearing Loss Prevention
Protecting your ears is the key to hearing loss prevention. If your job exposes you to hazardous noises, make sure proper safety equipment is provided, and that it meets state and federal regulations. Hearing protection – earplugs and earmuffs – is essential when working around loud equipment. It’s always a good idea to bring along earplugs if you’re participating in a noisy recreational activity (e.g., a football game or rock concert), as well.
At home, limit your exposure to noisy activities, and keep the volume down – on the television, stereo, and especially when it comes to personal listening devices like MP3 players. Prevent other types of hearing loss by refraining from inserting cotton swabs or other objects into your ears, blowing your nose gently through both nostrils, and quitting smoking. Studies conducted by the Research Center of Occupational Medicine show those who use tobacco are more likely to suffer from hearing loss.
Regardless of your age, have your hearing tested regularly. Early detection is key. While noise-related hearing loss can’t be reversed, you can still take steps to avoid further damage to your hearing.
Call Hearing Focused at (262) 679-8888 for more information or to schedule an appointment.
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