Hearing Loss Overview

Hearing loss occurs when sound signals from the ear are unable to be processed by the brain as sound. An estimated 48 million Americans (20%) report a certain degree of hearing loss, according to the Hearing Loss Association of America.
How do you treat hearing loss?

Types of Hearing Loss

Because it’s the most common hearing loss that we deal with at this clinic, for the rest of this article we will be referring mainly to sensorineural hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss we see at our clinic. It is triggered by damage to the hair cells within the inner ear, or hearing nerve damage. It reduces your hearing capacity, as well as the quality of the sound you hear, and it cannot be cured by medical means.

Signs of Hearing Loss

Sometimes hearing loss is sudden, but usually it is gradual and you may not be aware of it at the beginning. You will have more success in treating your hearing loss by being conscious of the early indications of hearing loss. It's important to notice it as soon as possible so that you can treat it.

The early signs of hearing loss can include the following:
  • Being unsure of which direction the noise is coming from
  • Feeling mental exhaustion after meeting friends in a noisy place
  • Getting others to repeat what they say on a regular basis
  • Watching the TV at a much higher volume than others around you
  • Finding it hard to hear what people say when at the café or restaurant
  • Persistent tinnitus, or ringing in the ears

It’s likely that someone else will notice your hearing loss before you do, so pay attention to the comments those around you are making.

Levels of Hearing Loss

It’s unusual for those with hearing loss to hear nothing at all. Four different levels of hearing loss exist, which are calculated by looking at the quietest sound you can hear:

  • Mild: For those with mild hearing loss, the quietest sound they can detect is from 21 to 40dB. Sometimes mild hearing loss can make it hard to hear others talk, especially in noisy situations. Using amplification can help “sharpen” sounds and make others’ voices clearer.
  • Moderate: For those with moderate hearing loss, the quietest sound they can detect is from 41 to 70dB. Without the use of a hearing aid it can be hard for you to follow speech and hear important announcements.
  • Severe: For those with severe hearing loss, the quietest sound they can detect is from 71 to 90dB. Those with severe hearing loss generally have to read lips or use sign language, even if they are using a hearing aid.
  • Profound: For those with profound hearing loss, the quietest sound they can detect is from 90dB. People with this level of hearing loss will start to see benefits from a cochlear implant, though hearing aids exist for profound hearing loss too.

Causes of Hearing Loss

Old Couple Enjoying a Run

Age-Related Hearing Loss

Age-related hearing loss is the single biggest cause of sensorineural hearing loss. Also called presbycusis, this form of hearing loss is a result of continual wear to the hair cells in our cochlea from a lifetime of use. It affects both your ears and increases in frequency as you grow old. Most of us will develop this type as we get older.
Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

The second major cause of hearing loss is exposure to loud noise. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) comes from repeated exposure to excessive noise whether at work or at play. It can also be caused by short bursts of sound loud from guns and explosions, which can cause immediate damage to hair cells.

Congenital Hearing Loss

Congenital hearing loss occurs at birth.

Treating Hearing Loss

The way hearing loss is treated depends on the cause and how severe it is, but unless you are deaf or have profound hearing loss, hearing aids are the preferred method of treatment.

Even though it’s the best way to treat your hearing loss, very few people comparatively are using hearing aids. Of the 28.8 million Americans aged 20 to 69 who could benefit from wearing hearing aids, fewer than 16 percent have ever used them. For those who are older, fewer than 30 percent have ever used them.

Untreated hearing loss has been linked to conditions as diverse as dementia, depression and an increase in the risk of falls. It’s vitally important to treat your hearing loss in the correct way to reduce your risk of these conditions, as well as to maintain your connections with friends, family and loved ones.

If you’re worried you might have hearing loss, we can help. Contact our team for a consultation.