Hearing loss impacts about 20% of Americans and 15% of children ages 6-19. Eventually, everyone develops hearing loss as part of the normal aging process. Hearing loss may be due to multiple factors such as loud noise exposure, blockage from wax, fluid in the ear, sinus infections, congenital problems, vascular problems, hereditary factors, and autoimmune problems just to name a few.
One of the frequent causes of hearing loss is due to loud noise that destroys nerve endings which transfer sound vibrations to the inner ear. The more nerve endings that become damaged the more hearing loss a person will have. The more often the person is exposed to the loud noise and the longer the exposure the more destruction it can cause to hearing. Hearing can also be impacted the closer you are to the source of noise.
How does hearing work?
The vibrations passing through the eardrum are carried to the inner ear which converts those vibrations to nerve impulses that the brain interprets as sound. A voice, a song, or the birds chirping outside are all the result of the brains specialized interpretation of these nerve impulses.
How do I know if my hearing is damaged?
Some people experience a sudden loss of hearing in one or both ears. This sudden loss can occur with or without noise exposure or trauma. This condition is called Sudden Sensorineural Hearing loss. This condition requires much more immediate attention by an ENT physician as the treatments to save your hearing may be time sensitive. The best chance to save hearing in many of these situations is within the first 2-3 days following the onset of the problem.
Another type of hearing loss may occur when someone had a recent exposure to loud noise. Some indicators that your hearing may be damaged from acute noise exposure include developing sensitivity (pain) to noise, ringing in the ear, and difficulty hearing in the hours following exposure.
Lastly, the most common type of hearing loss is a gradual loss that occurs over time. Some indications that you may be experiencing this type of loss would be having to ask family and friends to frequently repeat themselves, having difficulty carrying on a conversation in a group of people or in a restaurant, feeling like people are mumbling when they speak to you, and feeling more isolated when in noisy environments.
If you feel like you have experienced any of the above symptoms, or any other problems with your ears, its time to schedule an appointment with your ENT physician.
How is hearing loss diagnosed?
Tests to diagnose hearing loss may include:
Physical exam- this is where the doctor will look in your ear for any potential causes for hearing loss including structural causes, earwax build up, inflammation or infections and may screen your general ability to hear words spoken at different volumes one ear at a time.
Audiometric testing- These tests are conducted by our staff audiologist. Sophisticated equipment is utilized to determine the exact type of hearing loss you may be experiencing which will your doctor will review and come up with the best treatment plan based on your particular needs.
What can be done about hearing loss?
The first step to determining what can be done is to accurately diagnose the type of hearing loss being experienced. Whether due to infections, trauma, noise exposure, heredity or aging, the treatment plan must be tailored to the needs of the individual patient. At Southern ENT Specialists, we take the time to get to the underlying cause to give you the best options to help you hear better.
The majority of people who have permanent hearing loss would benefit from a hearing aid. However, only one in five people who could benefit from using them actually do. The hearing aid will not only help to make sounds louder, but the latest technology allows digital filtering of sounds to present the very best sound quality. At Southern ENT Specialists, our audiologist is well versed in helping you choose the best solution for you. We would love to help you and your family with your hearing needs. Our focus on patient satisfaction and personal attention sets us apart as you make this important decision for your health.