Hearing Loss Overview
What we told you there was a disorder that affects 17 percent of the US adult population, but only 16 percent of that group has taken steps to deal with it?
We’re talking about hearing loss, an invisible condition that has the potential to cause severe damage to one's quality of life. Read on for more details and what you can do if you think you have it.
What is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss occurs when your hearing capacity becomes impaired, making hearing conversations more difficult for you, and all the other sounds you love in life. Many conditions can cause hearing loss, but the two leading causes are age and excessive noise exposure. The rate of hearing loss rises as we grow older. Of the adults with hearing loss, 91% are over 50 years of age.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Some symptoms may signal you are losing your hearing:
- You frequently ask people to repeat themselves.
- Your family isn't happy about the volume of your television.
- You hear a ringing in your ears.
- In noisy environments or groups, you find it hard to understand others.
- You tend to miss essential sounds like the ringing of the phone or the doorbell.
In most cases, the highest frequencies are primarily the ones first affected by hearing loss. Since these are essential to the perception of the so-called voiceless consonants (f, s, p, t), understanding of speech is often impacted.
Additional symptoms such as tinnitus, sensitivity to the noise, or dizziness appear based on loss of hearing. Hearing loss is irreversible for almost any case once the damage has been done.
Causes of Hearing Loss
An age-related hearing loss is the most significant cause of hearing loss. Age induced hearing loss (presbycusis) is a common phenomenon. It typically begins between the ages of 45 and 65 and can be exacerbated as chronic noise exposure by environmental factors. Age-related hearing loss mainly affects the higher frequencies and occurs in both ears. In the cochlea case, it's thought to be due to wear and tear than the hair cells.
The second-largest source is noise-induced hearing loss following aging-related damage to the inner ear. Chronic exposure to high noise levels from noisy workplaces or listening to loud music causes noise-induced hearing loss. It can also be caused by brief and thunderous sound bursts such as gunshots and explosions, which can cause physical harm to the body. You may not recognize the signs of noise-induced hearing loss for a long time, but the damage has already been done. The first hint that noise has affected your hearing is the arrival of tinnitus.
Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss
Most sufferers do not know that untreated hearing loss has a long-term impact on the quality of life and the mind.
Chronic tiredness is common for untreated hearing loss, especially following social interaction in a noisy place following social interaction. The experiences are so draining that they most often avoid potential social encounters.
Studies have shown that older people with hearing loss are considerably more likely to develop dementia than those with normal hearing.
Tinnitus and Hearing Loss
Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound when there is no external sound. It is one of the most frequently reported complaints to healthcare professionals, especially among combat veterans.
Tinnitus is often associated with loss of hearing. Since both hearing loss and, potentially, tinnitus is caused or induced by the same "malfunction" in our hearing system, there is a moderate risk that you will also experience hearing loss if you have tinnitus.
Other tinnitus causes aren't triggered by ear issues. For example, medication (particularly high doses of aspirin), stress, high blood pressure, heart disease, and dysfunction of the temporomandibular joint (TMJ) may cause tinnitus.
Treating Hearing Loss
In some rare instances, hearing loss can occur very quickly, but in most cases, hearing loss occurs slowly and gradually. Hearing aids are the most common treatment for hearing loss, reconnect people to the sounds they’ve been missing. Hearing aids can help:
- Amplify the critical frequencies you are missing.
- Make it easier to converse in noisy places with others.
- Help you when you are talking on the phone.
- Give you more confidence and spatial awareness.
- Reduce tinnitus symptoms.