Hearing loss is a common condition caused by heredity, aging, disease, or noise. Unfortunately, people with hearing loss may find it difficult to converse with family and friends, understand a doctor’s advice, or respond to warnings. Seniors who can’t hear properly may get depressed or withdraw from others since they feel frustrated or ashamed about not hearing what is being said.
While most types of hearing loss can’t be reversed, you and your doctor can take steps to improve what you hear. Specific medications, surgery, hearing aids, and auditory speech therapy are some of the treatments that can help. Here’s everything you need to know about hearing loss.
Symptoms of hearing loss
The signs of hearing loss differ based on the type, cause, and degree of loss. Patients with age-connected hearing loss usually experience high-frequency hearing loss and may find it difficult to hear higher-pitched sounds, such as a woman’s voice or birds chirping. Some individuals are born deaf, while others lose their hearing ability due to a disease or accident.
Unfortunately, deafness symptoms often worsen over time, greatly affecting your quality of life. Be sure to visit an audiologist at a professional healthcare center such as HearCanada when you:
- Can’t understand when a child or an adult speaks to you
- Have an issue hearing due to background noise
- Repeatedly ask people to repeat what they are saying
- Have to turn up the TV or radio volume so loud that others complain
- No longer hear bird songs or rarely hear it
- Have difficulty hearing over a phone
- Can’t follow conversations when two or more people are talking
- Start avoiding social occasions that were once enjoyable
Types of hearing loss
Hearing loss occurs in different forms, and it can range from mild loss to a complete loss of hearing. Here are three main categories of hearing loss and what you should know about each:
1. Sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most prevalent type, and it occurs when the inner or the actual hearing nerve gets damaged. This type of hearing loss is permanent and is caused by many conditions, including aging, certain medications, and exposure to loud noise that damages small hair-like cells inside the ear or the cilia. The cilia carry vital information about loudness, pitch, and the meaning of sound to the brain.
While sensorineural hearing loss isn’t treatable through medication or surgery, most patients with this kind of loss can benefit from hearing aids. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss may occur immediately or after a few days. It’s important to visit an otologist as soon as possible. If left untreated for a long time, it might reduce the chance of medications helping improve the condition.
2. Conductive hearing loss
Another hearing impairment is conductive hearing loss happens in the outer or middle ear when sound waves can’t pass through to the inside ear. This hearing loss is caused by a mechanical issue in the middle or outer ear or blockage in the ear that can be led by earwax or a foreign object. The ear canal or the middle ear space may also get affected by fluid, a bone abnormality, ear infection, or injury on the eardrum.
This condition isn’t always permanent and can be treated by surgical or medical interventions, such as a cochlear implant or antibiotics. Conductive hearing loss caused by abnormalities, such as ear canal stenosis, ossicular chain discontinuity, or exostoses, is considered a permanent hearing loss and is more difficult to treat with medications. They can only be treated with implantable devices or typical hearing aids.
3. Mixed hearing loss
Mixed hearing loss is a mixture of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. This hearing loss happens when the ear sustains blast injuries or other forms of trauma, and it can also happen slowly over time if one hearing loss constitutes the other. For instance, a patient with long-lasting conductive hearing loss may experience age-related hearing loss as they age. On the other hand, a patient with age-related hearing loss may experience a temporary hearing loss due to wax impaction.
Treatment for mixed hearing loss depends on whether the loss is more conductive or sensorineural. If nearly all the loss is sensorineural, the best option might be hearing aids or implantable devices. However, if the greater part of the loss is due to a conductive aspect, the most effective way of correcting the mixed hearing loss would be surgical procedures or other medical treatment.
Side effects of hearing loss
Hearing loss impacts your ability to hear and your quality of life. It has rapidly increased among all age groups, and if left untreated, it can lead to devastating consequences. Here are the two major side effects of hearing loss.
1. Mental health issues
Mental health problems are perhaps the most common side effect of hearing loss. A study found that hearing loss increases the risk for depression among adults below the age of 70. People with hearing loss have difficulty communicating with others, which is likely to cause depression. Untreated hearing impairment is also linked with various mental health conditions such as:
- Social isolation
- Lack of focus
2. Cognitive decline
Hearing loss can lead to some conditions linked with aging, including memory loss. While your brain has a great ability to adapt to sensory changes, that can backfire when it comes to impaired hearing. Sound is processed through the inside ear so your brain can understand when the hearing is normal. However, it doesn’t get the same quality and quantity of sound when there is a sudden loss of hearing. It thinks the sound should still be there but struggle to find it.
The brain’s stress and lack of stimuli can cause cognitive decline, increasing the risk of dementia later in life. According to studies, seniors have 40% greater instances of cognitive decline and memory loss when they suffer from hearing loss.
Most hearing losses result from preventable causes, including exposure to loud sounds or childhood sickness, such as meningitis. When it comes to measures that help manage hearing loss, it’s essential to identify the problem early to ensure that the patient gets the support they need. For instance, technology such as implantable devices and hearing aids can greatly help how a person struggling with hearing loss sees the world. Rehabilitative therapy can also help to improve receptive skills and enhance communication abilities.