Difficulty hearing can occur any time the ear or auditory system isn’t working properly, and it isn’t the same for everyone, in part because there are four different types of hearing loss. An audiologist at Jefferson Surgical Clinic can help determine if you’re suffering from hearing loss, and if so, which of the following types: sensorineural, conductive, mixed and auditory neuropathy. More and more studies are clearly linking untreated hearing loss and development of dementia.
Causes can simply involve blockage by earwax (which can be easily cleaned), infections in the ear canal or drum, ear fluid, inner ear disorders or, rarely, brain tumors. A sudden loss of hearing can be a medical emergency and treatment is only effective if given right away. Hearing loss can often accompany tinnitus, or sounds such as ringing, buzzing or roaring, which can be annoying or interfere with falling asleep. Hearing tests and an ear exam can help identify the source and treat any underlying conditions.
Just as there are different causes behind an individual’s hearing loss, there are also varying degrees of hearing loss, and those degrees can fluctuate over time, in different environments, and even based on changes occurring within the body. Initially, someone may only have trouble hearing the softest of sounds, but if left undiagnosed and untreated, hearing loss could worsen as it moves through the various levels, including: slight or mild hearing loss, moderate to moderately severe, severe, profound.
When hearing loss is beyond the mild stage, it begins to interfere with communication, as we need to hear what others have to say. This affects relationships and social function such as the desire to go to church or gatherings where it can be difficult or frustrating. Most can be corrected through the use of technology and hearing aids. These may involve simple hearing amplifiers for mild losses, but moderate or advanced hearing loss usually benefits from a more advanced aid that can be programmed and matched to a patient’s location and level of hearing loss and tuned to best improve hearing.
Hearing aids can be expensive, but a variety of options exist from low price to the most advanced technologies available through our audiologist Dr. Kim Lower. As a doctor of audiology, Dr. Lower has 30 years of experience with hearing testing and hearing aid programming. Unlike aids purchased online or from big box stores, she provides regular service, including cleanings, battery replacement and part adjustment that are necessary for routine maintenance to ensure a long life and return on investment on the ability to hear.
While only an audiologist can determine whether you’re experiencing hearing loss and why, you may already know something’s wrong after experiencing warning signs associated with hearing loss, including:
- Asking others to repeat themselves
- Trouble understanding what people are saying
- Difficulty hearing every word someone says
- Feeling that others are mumbling
- Hearing a different word than what was actually said
- Having to turn the TV up louder than others prefer
- Difficulty hearing people when they’re talking to you in a crowded area
- Feeling that hearing difficulties are restricting your social life or limiting daily activities
- Family or friends complain about your hearing
Factors that may damage or lead to loss of the hairs and nerve cells in the inner ear include:
- Loud noise (including occupational and recreational noises)
- Some medications
- Certain illnesses such as meningitis may damage the cochlea