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Over 48 million people, nearly 1 in 5, live with hearing loss in the U.S. Being the third most common health condition people experienced today, hearing loss is both common and still undertreated. This highlights the importance of learning more about it so that you can prioritize your hearing health adn wellness.
There are three types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed. Conductive hearing loss happens in the outer or middle portion of the ear and is often temporary. This differs from sensorineural hearing loss which occurs in the inner ear and is permanent. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form, accounting for 9 out of 10 cases of hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the sensory cells in the inner ear are damaged. These cells convert sound waves into electrical signals that are sent to the brain – a critical step in the hearing process. Damage of these cells results in the brain receiving less auditory information, causing chronic hearing loss. A few common ways sensory cells in the inner ear can be damaged include:
- Aging: age related hearing loss is also known as presbycusis. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that 1 in 3 adults, ages 65-74, have some degree of hearing loss; and 1 in 2 adults, ages 75 and older have disabling hearing loss. This can be caused by changes to the ear that may be experienced over time, the impact of loud noise on hearing, and existing medical conditions that are linked to hearing loss which also impact older adults disproportionately.
- Loud noise: one time or regular exposure to loud noise can desensitize and weaken sensory cells. It is estimated that over 30 million people are regularly exposed to hazardous noise levels. Weather in the workplace, listening to audio at high levels, attending noisy events etc.; exposure to loud noise is common.
- Medical conditions: substantial research shows that several medical conditions increase the risk of hearing loss. This includes heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes which are conditions that affect blood flow throughout the body including the inner ear where sound is processed.
Other ways sensorineural hearing loss can be caused include: inner ear disorders, chronic ear infections, ototoxic medications and head injuries.
Sensorineural hearing loss often occurs gradually which means symptoms can remain unnoticed for quite some time. This often leads to a delay in treatment which can worsen hearing loss. Pay attention or the following signs:
- Tinnitus: a ringing or buzzing like noise in one or both ears.
- Sounds are muffled or distorted.
- Having difficulty hearing and following conversations in places with background noise.
- Lip reading to help distinguish words.
- Turning up the volume on your electronic devices.
- Asking others to repeat what they said.
- Hearing is better out of one ear compared to the other.
- Moving to a quiet space to be able to hear.
- Having a hard time hearing over the phone.
- Feeling confused or lost during conversations.
- Experiencing fatigue or feeling drained after conversations and social interactions.
These symptoms can be mild to profound, taking a toll on hearing and communication. To cope, it is common for people to avoid conversations as much as possible. This leads to social withdrawal which is a major effect of untreated hearing loss. This not only impacts relationships and social life, but also mental health. Studies show that people with untreated hearing loss can be more likely to develop depressive symptoms. Additionally, untreated hearing loss can increase other health risks like cognitive decline and falls.
Diagnosing and Treating Sensorineural Hearing Loss
It is important to know that there is a wide range of hearing solutions, resources, adn services you can access that transform your hearing health. Treatment starts by having your hearing health assessed. Hearing tests are painless and noninvasive, identifying your hearing needs which informs the best course of treatment.
The most common treatment for hearing loss is hearing aids – electronic devices that are designed to absorb and process sound. This provides significant hearing support which alleviates symptoms. Treating hearing loss not only strengthens hearing and communication but also relationships, social life, health, and quality of life.
Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a hearing consolation. We look forward to supporting you prioritize your hearing health and wellness.