Hearing Loss

The Importance of Checking Your Hearing

Hearing loss is a growing problem that about 48 million people are living with today, affecting people of all age ranges. As we age, hearing loss can cause depression, social isolation, and prevent us from being able to see dangerous situations. Hearing loss is developed gradually, so you may not be able to know there is a problem until you realize what is happening. On average, it takes people about seven years to get medical treatment.

How Is Hearing Loss Diagnosed?

Some symptoms to look for:

  • Asking people to repeat themselves frequently
  • Feeling like others are mumbling when they speak
  • Having trouble keeping up with conversations when background noise is present
  • Increasing volume on the TV or radio
  • Not attending social gatherings that take place in loud environments

To have hearing loss diagnosed, your doctor will need to talk with you about your symptoms, go over your medical history, and perform a physical exam with a hearing evaluation consisting of a series of audiological tests.

Types of Hearing Loss

Sudden hearing loss

  • Very rarely, people can lose their hearing over just a few hours or days, rather than years. These rapid changes in hearing are a medical emergency and should consult medical professionals as soon as possible.
  • This can be caused by a variety of other conditions, including:
    • Infectious disease
    • Trauma, such as head injury
    • Abnormal tissue growth
    • Immunologic disease such as Coogan’s syndrome
    • Toxic causes, such as snake bite
    • Ototoxic drugs (drugs that harm the ear)
    • Circulatory problems
    • Neurologic causes such as multiple sclerosis
    • Relation to disorders such as Ménière’s disease

Single sided hearing loss

  • Single-sided hearing is a consistent problem throughout the US. It can be caused by a number of different factors including chemotherapy, trauma, illness, or surgical complications.  One ear hearing loss can lead to a more serious problem such as acoustic neuroma or skull base tumors.  It can also have negative effects on your ability to localize sounds and balance.
    • The most common symptoms include:
      • Being unable to decipher where a sound is coming from
      • Difficulty determining background noise and target sound like speech
      • Inability to hear anything from one direction
    • Some other conditions that can be caused by unilateral hearing loss are:
      • Physical trauma
      • Acoustic neuroma
      • Microtia
      • Diseases like meningitis, mumps, or measles
      • Sudden deafness
      • Inner ear infections
      • Tumors in the ear or brain
      • Pressure on the hearing nerve
    • Even though there is not a cure for this condition, there are some amazing technologies and treatments available to help restore your hearing sensation of the deaf side.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

  • Your ear is made up of three parts— the outer, the middle, and the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss, or SNHL, happens after inner ear damage. Problems with the nerve pathways from your inner ear to your brain can also cause SNHL. Soft sounds may be hard to hear. Even louder sounds may be unclear or may sound muffled.This is the most common type of permanent hearing loss. Most of the time, medicine or surgery cannot fix SNHL. Hearing aids may help you hear.
  • This type of hearing loss can be caused by the following things:
    • Illnesses.
    • Drugs that are toxic to hearing.
    • Hearing loss that runs in the family.
    • Aging.
    • A blow to the head.
    • A problem in the way the inner ear is formed.
    • Listening to loud noises or explosions.

Conductive Hearing Loss

  • Your ear is made up of three parts— the outer, the middle, and the inner ear. A conductive hearing loss happens when sounds cannot get through the outer and middle ear. It may be hard to hear soft sounds. Louder sounds may be muffled. Medicine or surgery can often fix this type of hearing loss.
  • This type of hearing loss can be caused by the following:
    • Fluid in your middle ear from colds or allergies.
    • Ear infection, or otitis media. Otitis is a term used to mean ear infection, and media means middle.
    • Poor Eustachian tube function. The Eustachian tube connects your middle ear and your nose. Fluid in the middle ear can drain out through this tube. Fluid can stay in the middle ear if the tube does not work correctly.
    • A hole in your eardrum.
    • Benign tumors. These tumors are not cancer but can block the outer or middle ear.
    • Earwax , or cerumen, stuck in your ear canal.
    • Infection in the ear canal, called external otitis. You may hear this called swimmer’s ear.
    • An object stuck in your outer ear. An example might be if your child put a pebble in his ear when playing outside.
    • A problem with how the outer or middle ear is formed. Some people are born without an outer ear. Some may have a deformed ear canal or have a problem with the bones in their middle ear.

     

 

Types Of Hearing Tests

Audiograms

The only way to ensure you are keeping your hearing is with regular hearing tests. The tests allow doctors to study your hearing in a variety of different ways and keep track of how well you hear on an audiograph for an overall picture of how well you hear.

Tympanograms

Tympanometry is a hearing test that evaluates how well your inner ear functions by measuring how your eardrum reacts to air pressure. It is beneficial in determining middle ear problems, such as conductive hearing loss. The results from this test are laid out on a Tympanogram, which will tell if your hearing is normal or abnormal.

Acoustic reflexes

Acoustic reflex tests are a method used to measure how well your inner ear functions along with your hearing ability. Involuntary muscle contractions from exposure to noise in the middle ear is measured. If unusual or uncommon responses occur, it can show problems with the cochlea, auditory nerve, brainstem, ossicles, or facial nerve.

Optoacoustic emissions

Better known as OAE, a hearing test that evaluates the function of your inner ears by stimulating the cochlea and causing its tiny hair cells to vibrate in response. This gives off a faint noise referred to as an optoacoustic emission, which is assessed using a microphone in the ear canal. These tests are used on patients of all ages and are very good at detecting sensorineural hearing loss.