Hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the outer, middle, and/or inner ear. Most of the time, the damage is to the hairs or hair follicles that receive vibrations from sound waves. Below are the 4 types of hearing loss:
- Conductive Hearing Loss – issues with middle ear/bones, canal or drum. These issues may be caused by malformations of the ear structure, allergies or infections, poor function, or even Otosclerosis (a hereditary disorder).
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL) – issues with the inner ear (usually nerve-related). These issues may be caused by exposure to loud noise, aging, diseases or viruses, inner ear disease or Ménière’s disease, or heredity.
- Mixed Hearing Loss – this is a combination of CHL and SNHL, where there is damage in the outer and inner ear.
- Central hearing loss – cochlea works properly, but parts of the brain are not. (Rare)
Did you know that most hearing loss is actually preventable? Nearly 40 million Americans experience hearing loss due to loud noise (concerts, work environments, etc.). Another percentage have hearing loss due to ototoxic drugs, which are drugs that treat other issues, but end up damaging parts of the ear. When given prescriptions, make sure you ask your doctor about possible side effects; if ear issues are on that list, then ask about alternatives.
About 1 in 4 U.S. adults who report excellent to good hearing already have hearing damage. (CDC) Take a look at the symptoms below. Are you currently experiencing any of these symptoms?
- Buzzing noise or ringing
- Difficulty understanding words, especially with background noise
- Frequently asking others to speak slowly or loudly
- Always turning up the volume of electronics
- Raising your voice
- Muffled speech/sounds
- Noise hurts your ears
- Tinnitus or intensification of existing Tinnitus
- Pressure in the ears (not caused by infection)
- Vertigo or spinning
When should you see a specialist?
Hearing loss doesn’t always require hearing aids. Depending on the diagnosis, you may be a candidate for other treatments, such as surgeries, or antibiotics and/or antifungal medications.
When speaking with an ENT, you will take a thorough needs assessment before a hearing aid is considered. After speaking with your ENT to discuss your options, they might refer you to an otolaryngologist or audiologist to take further action. Keep in mind that a hearing aid will not restore normal hearing; however, it will help you to decipher sounds and their sources. The three biggest questions you need to ask about hearing aids during your assessment are:
- What features would be the most helpful?
- What all is included in the costs?
- Is there a trial period to test hearing aids?
Seeing a specialist shouldn’t be daunting or worrisome. If you start experiencing any symptoms longer than just a few days, or if you have sudden loss of hearing in just one ear, you should make an appointment with an ENT immediately to assess the issue. Contact us today!