If you have lost the partial or total ability to hear in one or both of your ears, you are suffering from hearing loss. Hearing loss can happen all of a sudden from an accident, but it usually happens over time, especially when you're older. More than 30 million people in the United States suffer from some form of hearing loss. Read on to learn more about hearing loss, specific causes, and treatment options.
Causes of Hearing Loss
In general, there are three types of hearing loss based on the underlying factors. The three types are conductive hearing loss, sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL), and mixed hearing loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss arises when sounds and noises are cannot travel from the outer ear to the tympanic membrane (eardrum), and then to the middle ear bones. Soft and muffled sounds can be difficult to hear if you suffer from this condition. Conductive hearing loss is usually the result of ear infections, earwax buildup, a foreign object stuck in the ear, swimmer's ear, or allergies. The good news is that this type of hearing loss is usually treatable in some fashion.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL)
SNHL can be caused if there is inner ear or nerve damage. Unfortunately, SNHL is almost alway permanent. With SNHL, regular sounds can appear unclear or muffled. Common causes of SNHL include birth defects, being surrounded by loud noises consistently, trauma, and old age. Infections such as meningitis, mumps, measles, or scarlet fever can also cause damage to the nerves of the ear, potentially leading to SNHL.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is simply a combination of conductive hearing loss and SNHL.
Diagnosing and Treating Hearing Loss
Diagnosis of hearing loss typically involves a physical exam where your doctor will look into your ear with a lighted instrument. Diagnosis may also involve various hearing tests where different sounds at different volumes are played to see how you respond.
Treatment for hearing loss will depend on how severe it is and the underlying cause. Common treatment methods for hearing loss include:
- Removing any buildup of earwax or foreign object
- Hearing aids to amplify sounds
- Cochlear implants
- Surgical procedures
- Devices that assist with listening such as Voice Over Internet Protocol (VoIP)
The first step on the road to recovery is visiting your doctor to diagnose your hearing loss. Schedule your visit today.