- What causes hearing loss?
- How to find out if you have hearing loss?
- What are the treatment options for hearing loss?
- 4 steps to take today if you have hearing loss
- 10 facts about hearing loss that you should know:
Hearing loss is a serious issue and the first thing to do if you experience any degree of hearing loss is to consult a medical professional who may refer you to an otolaryngologist, an audiologist or hearing aid specialist.
- An otolaryngologist or ENT specializes in diagnosing and treating ear, nose, throat and neck diseases and will find out why you have trouble hearing and recommend treatment options.
- An audiologist is trained to identify and measure the degree and type of hearing loss and may be licensed to fit hearing aids.
- A hearing aid specialist is licensed by the state to carry out and assess hearing tests, counsel you and fit and test hearing aids.
What causes hearing loss?
It is natural to lose the sense of hearing with aging. This is called presbycusis and it affects some people more than others. Another cause is the prolonged exposure to loud noise or noise-induced hearing loss. This is common with construction workers, farmers, musicians, airport employees, military personnel and anyone who works in loud noise conditions.
Loss of hearing can also be caused due to viral or bacterial infections, health conditions such as heart disease, stroke, head injury, tumors and medications.
How to find out if you have hearing loss?
Think about these situations.
- Do you need to turn up the TV volume that others find too loud?
- Do you find it hard to keep track of conversations when there is background noise in a busy café?
- Do you feel embarrassed to meet people because you find it hard to hear?
- Are you frustrated when you talk to people because you can hear clearly?
- Do you have problems hearing what your co-workers or clients are saying?
- Do you feel that you can hear but can’t understand what someone is saying?
- When you go to the movies or watch something online, do you have issues understanding the dialogs?
- Do you find yourself arguing with family or friends because of a communication issue caused by losing hearing?
- Do you keep asking people to repeat what they say?
- Do you think that others mumble?
- Do you find it tough to hear on the phone?
- Do you find it hard to follow what your friends are saying when you are out to dinner at a restaurant?
These are just a few situations but if you answered yes to even three of these questions, then you are likely to have hearing loss and should have your hearing checked.
What are the treatment options for hearing loss?
Treatment depends on the extent of your inability to hear and may include devices and aids to help you hear better. Some common ones are:
These are electronic instruments that fit into or behind your ear and amplify the sounds you hear.
These are small electronic devices that are surgically implanted into the inner ear, giving you a sense of sound if your hearing loss is severe. These may be worn in one or both ears.
Bone anchored hearing systems
These bypass the ear canal and middle ear and use your body’s natural ability to transfer sound through bone conduction. The sound processor picks up sound, converts it into vibrations, and then relays the vibrations through your skull bone to your inner ear.
Assistive listening devices
These include phone amplifying devices, captioned phones, smart phone or tablet apps. For larger areas, there are hearing loops, FM or infrared systems.
Lipreading or speechreading augments the hearing aid or cochlear implant to help those with hearing loss to follow conversations.
If you are experiencing any degree of difficulty with hearing, be proactive and take the following steps right away!
4 steps to take today if you have hearing loss
Hearing tests and examinations
If you haven’t had your hearing tested for a long time, and you’ve noticed changes in your hearing, the first thing to do is seek expert advice and arrange an assessment. There are several possible causes as I’ve explained above, some of which can be treated quickly and effectively.
When you have a hearing test, the findings will help your practitioner to establish potential causes and see if there is an underlying issue. In some cases, for example, a blockage, build-up or infection can result in temporary hearing loss. If the tests show that you do have an issue with hearing that is not linked to an underlying cause, there are treatment options, including hearing aids.
Hearing aid repairs and replacement
If you have already started using hearing aids to improve your hearing, and you’re finding that they’re not firing on all cylinders, it’s wise to contact your audiologist or a hearing aid specialist. Hearing aid maintenance can help to lower the risk of issues, but hearing aids don’t last forever. If there is an issue, it may be possible to repair your hearing aids. If the hearing aids are old and they won’t last much longer, replacing them may make financial sense. It’s also a good idea to check your batteries and the settings on your hearing aids if you’re having problems with them. Changing the battery and adjusting the settings could help to provide better clarity and quality.
Protecting your ears
Exposure to loud noises is one of the most common causes of hearing loss. If you work in a noisy environment, your job involves being exposed to loud noises, or you commute on a train every day, take steps to protect your ears. Your employer should provide you with suitable protection if there is a risk of occupational hearing loss and you can also use earplugs or ear defenders while you travel. Make sure the volume is not too high if you’re listening to music through headphones.
Also read 11 tips to protect your hearing health
Check for Tinnitus
Tinnitus occurs when you can hear sounds in your ears that are not generated by an external source. Tinnitus is often known as ringing in the ears. In some cases, tinnitus and loss of hearing are linked. If you have recurrent symptoms, or your symptoms have become more severe, this could be due to hearing loss creating a void. If you can’t hear external sounds, the symptoms of tinnitus become more pronounced. If you do experience tinnitus regularly, don’t hesitate to seek expert advice. More about this condition, causes, treatments here.
If you’re having trouble hearing, it’s best to take action. Hearing loss tends to be gradual and the sooner you seek advice, the better so that you can find treatment options for both temporary and long-term causes.
10 facts about hearing loss that you should know:
- Hearing loss is the third most common physical condition after arthritis and heart disease.
- Everyone is susceptible to losing hearing—age no bar—and depending on the cause, it can be mild, or severe, temporary or permanent.
- Congenital hearing loss means you are born without hearing.
- Since hearing loss is often not visible, people tend to assume that someone is aloof, confused, or stupid.
- In adults, it is usually caused by noise and aging.
- Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, causes changes in the inner ear as you get older resulting in a slow but steady loss of hearing.
- In older people, a hearing loss is often confused with, or complicates, conditions such as dementia.
- Noise-induced hearing loss is sudden or can happen over a period of time.
- Sudden, noise-induced loss of hearing from gunfire and explosions is the number one disability caused by combat in current wars.
- Often, tinnitus (ringing in the ears) will accompany hearing loss and can be just as devastating as losing your sense of hearing itself