Hearing loss

Hearing loss is very common. According to National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders 25% of adults between age 65 to 74 and 50% of adults 75 years and older have disabling hearing loss. The three main categories of hearing loss include sensorineural, conductive and mixed.

Sensorineural hearing loss

This category includes problems inside the cochlea, nerve of hearing or the brain. These are usually permanent losses, as the body is unable to heal or regenerate these complicated cells and structures. Some common causes of sensorineural hearing loss include hereditary hearing loss, age-related hearing loss (presbycusis), noise-induced hearing loss, trauma, infections and tumors. One important subset is sudden sensorineural hearing loss, where urgent treatment may be able to reverse the problem.

Conductive hearing loss

In conductive hearing loss, the inner ear is normal, but a problem lies in the ear’s conductive system, which normally allows sound waves to reach the inner ear to be heard normally. The conductive system includes the ear canal, eardrum and middle ear. Conductive hearing loss can frequently be treated and the hearing successfully restored with medical or surgical treatment depending on the particular problem. Some common causes of conductive hearing loss include wax impaction, ear canal obstruction, perforated eardrum, fluid buildup behind the eardrum due to allergies or infection, or a problem with the integrity or vibration of the three bones in the middle ear that are called ossicles.

Mixed hearing loss

This category is simply the combination of a conductive hearing loss and a sensorineural hearing loss and may be partially improved with medical treatment.

Symptoms of hearing loss

As hearing loss occurs very gradually, many people are unaware of the presence of or the extent of their hearing loss. Hearing loss can cause people to be sensitive to certain sounds which makes them believe they have better than normal hearing, when in fact a significant hearing loss may be present. Here are some common symptoms of hearing loss:

  • Problem hearing on the telephone
  • Trouble hearing when there is noise in the background
  • Difficulty with following a conversation
  • Straining to understand people
  • Believing that others mumble or not speak clearly
  • Misunderstanding what others are saying and respond inappropriately
  • Asking people to repeat themselves
  • Turning the TV volume up too high for others
  • Hearing a ringing, roaring, or hissing sound
  • Being bothered by some sounds

Untreated hearing loss

Many people initially want to forgo wearing hearing aids for multiple reasons. These can include not wanting to look old, not wanting to bother with wearing hearing aids, expense and fear their hearing will worsen if they wear hearing aids.

Properly fit hearing aids do not contribute to worsening of hearing. In fact, the opposite is true. Hearing aids keep the stimulation to the nerve of hearing and the centers of the brain that process sound more normal. Untreated hearing loss leads to worsening of hearing and many studies now show that seniors with untreated hearing loss have more dementia, smaller brains on MRI and fall more than seniors with hearing aids. Untreated hearing loss causes cognitive decline, worsens anxiety and depression and can contribute to social isolation. Finally, untreated hearing loss is associated with accidents, trauma and a higher death rate.

Hearing Aids

The primary treatment of most causes of permanent hearing loss that cannot be medically or surgically improved is with the dispensing of custom fit hearing aids. Hearing aids can amplify sound and improve hearing by making things louder and improving the signal to noise ratio of the sounds one is trying to hear.

Implantable Devices

When hearing loss is too severe to be significantly helped by hearing aids, cochlear implants are recommended. Bone conduction implants can improve hearing in patients with conductive and mixed losses.

Our staff is ready to assist you on your pathway to better hearing.