The general belief is that it is an affliction of the elderly, but that is not necessarily true. Hearing loss resulting from heredity, chronic exposure to loud noise, a ruptured eardrum, an infection or even earwax buildup can occur at any age.
When sound waves enter the outer ear, they make their way through the ear canal to the eardrum in the middle ear where the hammer, anvil and stirrup amplify the sound waves. The vibrations then travel to the inner ear where they pass through the cochlea and vibrate its tiny hairs that turn the sound vibrations into nerve signals that travel to the brain and are interpreted, finally, as sound.
TYPES OF HEARING LOSS AND THEIR CAUSE:
CONDUCTIVE HEARING LOSS is when sound is not conducted correctly from the outer ear to the eardrum in the middle ear, resulting in a lower sound volume and the inability to hear faint sounds.
- A gradual buildup of earwax that blocks the conduction of sound waves
- A ruptured eardrum (tympanic membrane perforation), likely a result of a sudden, loud noise or change of pressure, or from the eardrum being poked and then becoming infected
- Tumors or abnormal bone growths
SENSORINEURAL HEARING LOSS (SNHL) is due to damage to the cochlea in the inner ear or to the nerve pathways leading to the brain. Faint sounds are tough to hear, and speech may sound muffled or be difficult to understand.
- Prolonged exposure to loud noise
- MIXED HEARING LOSS is a combination of SNHL and conductive hearing loss.
SIGNS OF HEARING LOSS
- Perceiving speech to
- be muffled
- Difficulty understanding words in loud surroundings
- A frequent need to ask others to speak more clearly or slowly
- Others ask why you have the radio or TV so loud
- Purposefully avoiding conversations
- Avoiding certain
- social settings
TESTING FOR HEARING LOSS
GENERAL SCREENING TESTS are done one ear at a time to allow the doctor to assess how well the patient hears words at various volumes as well as responds to different other sounds.
TUNING FORK TESTS can reveal if hearing loss is due to damage to the middle ear, nerves of the inner ear or both.
AUDIOMETER TESTS are performed by an audiologist and involve earphones that allow you to hear tones and words in one ear at a time. The sounds are played at fainter and fainter levels to reveal the lowest volume the patient can hear.
If you believe that you have trouble hearing, talk to your doctor or hearing specialist to discuss which evaluations may be right for you and what your best options are to improve your hearing.