Hearing Loss

Types of Hearing Loss

There are four types of hearing loss. The type of hearing loss is determined by the location of the problem, and determines whether the loss is temporary, medically or surgically treatable, or permanent.

Conductive Hearing Loss: involves the outer ear canal, eardrum, or middle ear space that holds the ossicles (ear bones). Cerumen (ear wax) occluding the canal, fluid to the middle ear space, perforation of the eardrum, or fixation of the ossicles are generally medically or surgically treatable, therefore most often not permanent. Treatment is provided by your Primary or Ear, Nose, and Throat Physician.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss:  most commonly involves loss of hair cells (cilia) of the inner ear causing a gradual decline in hearing which is generally not medically or surgically treatable. The most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss are age, noise, and hereditary. A virus or inner ear infection might cause a sudden loss of hearing. Those experiencing a sudden loss of hearing should not delay reporting to their primary physician as odds are in the patient’s favor when treated sooner than later.

Mixed Hearing Loss:  results from a combination of Conductive and Sensorineural Loss. Treatment is managed by an Ear, Nose and Throat Physician who determines an appropriate course that will yield the best hearing without risk.

Central Hearing Loss:  hearing loss results from diseases of the central nervous system, head injury to the temporal lobe or stroke.

The Signs of Hearing Loss

How do You Know  if You're Losing Your Hearing?

Signs and symptoms of hearing loss may include:

 

  • Frequently ask people to repeat, think most people mumble.

  • People talk too fast. Would hear better if they would just slow down.

  • Difficulty following conversation when more than one person is talking, such as in a restaurant.

  • Hear a noise (tinnitus) in one or both ears.

  • Difficulty determining direction of sound.

  • Require TV to be higher in volume than others prefer.

  • Unable to hear the phone, doorbell, turn signal in car or alarms.

Causes of Hearing Loss

How does Hearing Loss Occur in an Adult?

Hearing loss can be caused by one or more of the following. The age of onset, medical, occupational, and family history are needed to determine which, if not how many, factors contribute to one’s hearing loss.

       Age: Hearing loss due to age occurs gradually. One in 4 Adults age 65+ has hearing loss. One in 3 Adults age 75+ has hearing loss.

       Loud Noise: Approximately 15% of Americans between the ages of 20 and 69 have hearing loss due to exposure to loud noise. This includes service in the military, industrial occupations, and recreation such as hunting, motorcycles, and loud music. 

       Hereditary: Permanent Hearing loss occurring at birth, childhood, or as a young adult is most often related to a genetic link when all other causes have been eliminated. 

       Medications: Numerous medications are known to impact the inner ear, affecting hearing and/or balance. Some chemotherapy agents and radiation to the head are also known to impact hearing. Most impact relatively soon after being administered, therefore one should always inform their physician or oncologist when experiencing a change. 

       Chronic Diseases: Besides ear infections, auto-immune diseases can contribute to permanent hearing loss. Comorbidities such as heart disease, small vessel vascular disease, and diabetes can cause changes in blood supply. The inner ear requires a delicate balance of oxygen and is susceptible to irreversible damage when other chronic medical conditions are not managed.

       Health Conditions: Tinnitus (ear noise) to one ear or both can occur as an isolated symptom or in conjunction with hearing loss. Likewise, dizziness or vertigo can occur as a result of an acute or chronic inner ear disturbance with or without hearing loss.  A comprehensive evaluation of hearing often assists your primary physician in determining a diagnosis and make appropriate referrals to a Specialist.