Left untreated, hearing difficulties leavesmillions of peoplesusceptible to increasing feelingsof isolation andfrustration. Untreated hearing loss also means less money, due to lower average incomes3resulting from decreased effectiveness in the workplace. Hearing loss also increases risks of depression, memory and concentrationdecline, and early onset dementia4.

Signs of hearing loss

Hearing loss usually affects different frequencies of sound by varying amounts. This can lead to conversations being difficult to follow.

If you feel that your hearing is not what it used to be, or are concerned that a loved one may be experiencing hearing loss, take a moment to complete the 1-minute hearing check.

Types of hearing loss

There are three forms of hearing loss: conductive; sensorineural; and mixed hearing loss.

Conductive hearing loss

This loss results from a problem with the passage of sound through the outer ear and/or middle ear.

Some common examples include:

Sergei Kochkin PhD (2005)–“The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income.”

Lin et al (2011) Johns Hopkins School of Medicine-“Hearing Loss and Incident Dementia.”

  • Excessive cerumen (earwax) in the ear canal
  • Perforation of the eardrum
  • Middle ear infection with fluid build-up

However, conductive hearing loss accounts for only 10% of all hearing losses, and they range from mild to moderate in severity. Conductive hearing loss can often be medically treated, and in some cases, hearing can be completely restored.

 

Sensorineural hearing loss

Also known in lay-person’s terms as “nerve deafness”, this is the most common type of hearing loss and originates in the inner ear.

Common causes include:

  • Genetic factors (i.e. hearing loss can run in families)
  • Excessive noise exposure –either sudden or prolonged
  • Changes in the inner ear due to aging
  • Less common causes include:
  • Reactions to ear-toxic medications
  • Acoustic neuroma (a benign tumor that can develop on the cochlear nerve)
  • Conditions acquired prior to birth (congenital)
  • Infections such as meningitis and mumps
  • Kidney disease
  • Vascular disease

Each cause can lead to damage to the sensory hair cells or nerves. Once damaged, the hair cells can’t repair themselves or be medically treated. Therefore, 90% of cases of sensorineural hearing loss cannot be reversed. In more than 95% ofcases involving sensorineural hearing loss, hearing aids are the recommended course of treatment.

Mixed hearing loss

When hearing loss occurs from a condition in the inner ear as well as the outer and/or middle ear, this is known as “mixed hearing loss”. An example of mixed hearing loss may be someone with inner-ear damage due to exposure to noise in his or her workplace over many years, who also currently has an infection that has led to a fluid build-up in the middle ear.

Causes of hearing loss

While theaging process is a major contributor to hearing loss, it is certainly not a condition reserved for the later stages of life. Studies have shown that exposure to

noise is thought to be a contributing factor in around 34% of cases –and interestingly, around 50% of Americans with hearing loss are still of traditional working age (i.e. under 65 years).

Noise-induced hearing loss

Given the impact of noise in traditionally male-dominated fields such as factories, military service and construction, American males are considerably more likely to have hearing loss than women –including being twice as likely to have a moderate to severe hearing loss

These days, people are more aware of the damage that noise can do to their hearing. This is illustrated through the mandatory provision of ear protection on work sites and in factories.

Nevertheless, every day, millions of people expose themselves to noise levels that will surely lead to long-term damage to their hearing, including the use of personal stereo systems by the youth of the world.

Related Pages

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  • Address hearing loss early!