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How to Prevent Hearing Loss

Ear diagram

Do I Have Hearing Loss?

People who are affected by hearing loss often have difficulties detecting and accepting this fact. The reduction of the ear’s functions usually develops over many years, which is why it takes time to detect the symptoms.

How can you test yourself? Are you familiar with the following situations?

  • Do you often need to ask people to repeat what they have said?

  • Do you often experience problems hearing and understanding what other people are saying to you when you do not have eye contact?

  • Do you avoid parties and social events because there is too much noise or you can’t hear what people are saying?

  • Do you often have trouble understanding a conversation when there is a background noise or other people are talking at the same time?

  • Are you no longer able to hear every day sounds such as the wind in the trees, footsteps or the sound of water?

  • Do you often feel that other people are mumbling or speaking unclearly?

If you have answered yes to one or several of these questions, you should have your hearing tested.

If you are wearing hearing aids and answering yes, we need to hear from you as well.

Please contact us to book an appointment.

Type, Degree and Configuration of Hearing Loss

When describing hearing loss, we generally look at 3 attributes: type of hearing loss, degree of hearing loss, and the configuration of the hearing loss.

Type of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be categorized by where or what part of the auditory system is damaged. There are 3 basic types of hearing loss: conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is not conducted efficiently through the outer ear canal to the eardrum and the tiny bones, or ossicles, of the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss usually involves a reduction in sound level or the ability to hear faint sounds. This type of hearing loss can often be medically or surgically corrected.

Examples of conditions that may cause a conductive hearing loss include:

  • Conditions associated with middle ear pathology such as fluid in the middle ear from colds, allergies (serous otitis media), poor Eustachian tube function, ear infection (otitis media), perforated eardrum or benign tumor

  • Impacted earwax (cerumen)

  • Infection in the ear canal (external otitis)

  • Presence of a foreign body

  • Absence or malformation of the outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or to the nerve pathways from the inner ear (retrocochlear) to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss cannot be medically or surgically corrected. It is a permanent loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss not only involves a reduction in sound level, or ability to hear faint sounds, but also affects speech understanding, or ability to hear clearly.

Sensorineural hearing loss can be caused by diseases, birth injury, drugs that are toxic to the auditory system, and genetic syndromes. Sensorineural hearing loss may also occur as a result of noise exposure, viruses, head trauma, aging, and tumors.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Sometimes a conductive hearing loss occurs in combination with a sensorineural hearing loss. In other words, there may be damage in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve. When this occurs, the hearing loss is referred to as a mixed hearing loss.

Unilateral Hearing Loss

Unilateral hearing loss (UHL) means that hearing is normal in one ear, but there is hearing loss in the other ear. The hearing loss can range from mild to very severe. Approximately 1 out of 1000 children is born with UHL. Unilateral hearing loss can occur in both adults and children. Nearly 3% of school-aged children have UHL. Children with UHL are at a higher risk for having academic, speech/language and social/emotional difficulties than their normal hearing peers. Some children with UHL experience these difficulties but others do not.

Many times we do not know the cause of hearing loss. Below are some possible causes of UHL:

  • Hearing loss that runs in the family (genetic or hereditary)

  • An outer, middle or inner ear abnormality

  • Specific syndromes

  • Specific illnesses or infections

  • Skull (temporal bone) fractures

  • Excessive or extreme noise exposure

  • Traumatic brain injury

Degree of Hearing Loss

Degree of hearing loss refers to the severity of the loss. The numbers are representative of the patient’s thresholds, or the softest intensity at which sound is perceived. The following is one of the more commonly used classification systems:

  • Mild: between 26 and 40 dB

  • Moderate: between 41 and 55 dB

  • Moderately severe: between 56 and 70 dB

  • Severe: between 71 and 90 dB

  • Profound: 90 dB or greater

Source: Clark, J. G. (1981). Uses and abuses of hearing loss classification. Asha, 23, 493-500.

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