Hearing Loss – The Causes
Learn the three main types of hearing loss
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
This is the most common type of permanent hearing loss. It happens if there is damage to your inner ear or to the nerve pathways from your inner ear to your brain. Sensorineural Loss often affects the hair cells that detect soft, high-pitched sounds, so it becomes difficult to hear clearly when someone is speaking to you. This loss becomes especially difficult when speech competes against background noise. Often called “age-related hearing loss,” it can rarely be medically or surgically corrected. But the problem can usually be addressed with hearing aids.
Sensorineural hearing loss may be caused by:
- Drugs that are toxic to hearing
- Hearing loss that runs in the family
- Head trauma
- Malformation of the inner ear
- Exposure to loud noise
Conductive Hearing Loss
If sound levels seem too low or you are straining to hear faint sounds, you may be experiencing Conductive Hearing Loss. It can happen if there is blockage in either your outer ear, your middle ear or both. As a result, sound waves have a difficult time reaching that part of your ear which converts them into electrical signals before they’re sent to your brain. This type of hearing loss may be temporary, but in some cases requires medical or surgical intervention.
Conductive hearing loss has multiple possible causes, such as:
- Fluid in the middle ear from colds
- Ear infection (otitis media)
- Allergies (serous otitis media)
- “Swimmer's ear” infection (external otitis)
- Poor Eustachian tube function
- Perforated (“burst”) eardrum(s)
- Benign tumors
- Impacted earwax
- Presence of a foreign body
- Absence or malformation of the outer ear, ear canal or middle ear
Mixed Hearing Loss:
If you have Mixed Hearing Loss, you are experiencing a combination of symptoms attributed to both conductive and sensorineural issues. Mixed hearing loss could be in multiple areas of the ear and/or stem from a variety of causes. Nevertheless, depending on the individual situation, patients who experience mixed hearing loss usually respond well to hearing aids that are individually calibrated.
Have difficulty hearing? Get educated on your type of loss
No matter what differentiates your issue – whether conductive, sensorineural or mixed hearing loss – the professionals at Total Hearing Care will give you the information you need to make informed decisions on how to proceed. Contact us today to start the conversation. Even if you have tried hearing aids in the past and given up, we will be patient and ensure you leave with the right solution for your hearing needs. Make a no-obligation appointment by calling 855-MYHEARING.
More than Blaring Music: Causes of Hearing Loss
While many people associate hearing loss with the elderly, people of all ages can have difficulties hearing. Beyond the “usual suspects” – blaring music at rock concerts or noise from industrial work zones – hearing issues have many sources and can sometimes be prevented.
Is it all in your head? Understanding the link between headphones, earphones and hearing loss
It seems everywhere you look, people have headphones on or earbuds (the headphones that sit inside the ear, commonly sold with cell phones) in their ears. Even in places where headphones would have been taboo only a few years ago, such as restaurants, people are “plugged in.” But did you know that bacteria on earbuds can spread infections?
Earphones that create excessive noise exposure – both at very high volume or moderately loud sound over extended periods of time – increase your risk of hearing loss. While we’ve known for many years that noise pollution is one of the most common causes of hearing impairment, few people realize the severity of the impact from listening to loud music (even classical) through their smartphones or mp3 players. Younger people often don’t realize that their listening habits are already contributing to hearing loss – now and in the future.
Overexposed? Knowing the Dangers of Noise in the Workplace – Not Just Construction Workers
Although the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (commonly known as OSHA) has strict guidelines on noise exposure in the workplace, nonetheless, you may still be at risk. According to OSHA, more than 22 million people are exposed to damaging noise in the workplace annually.
The louder the noise in a workplace, the more damage to your ears. While excessive noise can damage hearing permanently, some loud noises can cause hearing loss either progressively over time or soon after trauma to the ear.
Employees most at risk are those working in noisy environments such as factories, plants or situations such as construction or work at an airport. But some office environments, schools, venues and restaurants can be exceptionally noisy.
Companies have a legal (and moral) requirement to protect employees from excessive noise. OSHA’s information includes a discussion of health effects, exposure and controls and hearing conservation.
If you work in an environment where sound is an issue, consider requesting that the company reimburse you for professional-grade earplugs. Similar to hearing aids, professional-grade earplugs are molded to your individual ears and are popular with professional musicians and contractors.
Basic Hygiene, Common Sense and Happy Ears
It’s true. You can avoid hearing impairment by simply employing basic hygienic guidelines and common sense!
- When you fly, suck on a candy or cough drop, or chew gum during takeoffs and landings to alleviate the “popping” feeling and any associated discomfort caused by changes in altitude. On rare occasions, changes in cabin pressure has caused perforation of the eardrum, which leads to hearing loss. Also, if you have a head cold and you are travelling, over-the-counter decongestants can minimize fluid and reduce pressure on your ears during flight.
- Wash your hands. When you touch your ear (or anyone else’s) make sure you prevent the spread of various bacteria and viruses by keeping your hands clean.
- Water damage to your ears can be avoided or alleviated by not unnecessarily submerging yourself under water when bathing, showering or swimming.
- Ears are generally self-cleaning and do not require any assistance in removing wax, such as by using cotton swabs that can damage the “hairs” on the inside of your ear. If you feel like you have a buildup of wax, see your doctor in order to have this officially diagnosed and treated, and to discuss any underlying causes for such buildup.
- Clean your earbuds and headphones – earbuds get left on tables, thrown in bags, fall on the floor and people sometimes share them. Make sure you keep them clean to limit spreading germs.
If you would like to have your ears checked for wax or have questions on aural hygiene, schedule an appointment with your local hearing professional at Total Hearing Care or call 1-855-MYHEARING for professional guidance on keeping your ears clean.
Always the Last One to Know? Understanding and Accepting Hearing Loss
“WHAT? You said seven … not eleven.” “No, I said it costs $11.” Does this misunderstanding sound familiar?
In many cases, the last person to realize there is hearing loss is the person with a hearing impairment. Just as with vision loss, hearing loss usually happens gradually over time. It may take time to realize and accept what others increasingly see: that you are straining to hear. On average, it takes seven years from the time people first suspect hearing loss until they seek treatment. But during these crucial years, individuals may experience increased isolation, frustration and loneliness as they gradually withdraw from social activities.
Noise exposure and aging are the most common causes of hearing loss in adults. At age 65, one out of three people will have diminished hearing. But hearing care professionals confirm they have more young clients who are seeking help with hearing loss. Baby Boomers are showing signs of having more hearing problems at an earlier age than previous generations. (Too much music in the 1960s?) This may be attributed to a lifestyle with prolonged exposure to loud volumes through earphones, city traffic, power tools and lawn mowers.
Besides noise and aging, other causes of hearing loss may include earwax buildup, an object in the ear, injury to the ear or head, ear infection, a ruptured eardrum and other conditions that affect the ear.