What is Hearing Loss?

A hearing loss can be defined as the total or partial inability of the ear to hear a sound. Hearing Loss can be natural, by birth or a resullt of injury to ears and head. People suffering from hearing loss find difficulty in communication.

Types of Hearing Loss?

In general, there are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural or mixed (which is a combination of both).

Conductive hearing loss: results from disorders in the outer or middle ear. Sounds are prevented from reaching the inner ear, so the sound gets faint and/or distorted. Common causes for conductive hearing loss may include wax build-up, infection or fluid in the middle ear, foreign objects in the ear canal, or a perforated eardrum. Invasive treatment of conductive hearing loss is surgey, but the safest management of this loss is hearing aid which is a gold standard non-invasive solution.

Sensorineural hearing loss: occurs when inner ear nerves are damaged and cannot properly transmit signals to the brain. With this type of loss, sounds do not seem clear. Because inner ear nerves and sensory cells naturally diminish over time, this is the most common type of hearing loss as people age. However, sensorineural hearing loss may also result from injury, exposure to loud noises, diabetes, ototoxic medications, heredity, and a variety of diseases. Sensorineural hearing loss is often successfully treated with hearing aids.

Mixed hearing loss: is a combination of a conductive and a sensorineural hearing loss. A hearing care professional can determine the best treatment, which may include hearing aids.

Degree of hearing loss

An important measurement in hearing is frequency.This quantifies the pitch of sounds from very low (like thunder) to very high (like a whistle). People often experience hearing loss at different frequencies—so even if you listened to a range of sounds at exactly the same volume, you wouldn't be able to hear them all.

In order to determine the degree of a person's hearing loss, a hearing care professional will give a series of tests to determine the softest level you can hear a tone in a particular frequency range. This becomes your personal hearing prescription.

There are four general degrees of hearing loss:

Mild (26 - 40 dB HL threshold): With mild hearing loss, it's most difficult to hear soft speech or distinguish sounds when there is background noise.

Moderate (41 - 70 dB HL threshold): Moderate hearing loss makes it difficult to hear conversations, especially when there is background noise. The TV or radio may need to be turned up to be heard clearly.

Severe (71 - 90 dB HL threshold): With severe hearing loss, normal conversations are not audible. Loud speech may also be difficult to hear or understand. People with severe hearing loss are only able to hear when speech is amplified—by shouting, turning up volume, or with hearing aids.

Profound (91 dB HL or higher threshold): People with profound hearing loss may have difficulty understanding even amplified speech.

Hearing loss symptoms

  • Other people comment that your TV is too loud
  • Difficulty following conversations involving 2 or more people
  • Confusion or difficulty focusing in noisy areas (restaurants, malls, meetings, etc.)
  • Relying more on reading lips or watching people's faces as they talk
  • Common sounds seem muffled
  • Difficulty hearing women and children's voices
  • Unrelated answers or comments to questions/conversations
  • Ringing sensation in the ears

Causes of hearing loss

Medical causes

  • Exposure to loud sounds over a long period of time
  • Single exposure to explosive noise
  • Diabetes, heart, circulatory or thyroid conditions
  • Family history of hearing loss
  • Medications (ototoxic drugs) that may affect hearing

Emotional causes

  • You feel stressed out when listening to someone
  • You feel frustrated that people mumble or don't speak up
  • You're embarrassed about not following conversations
  • You feel nervous you won't understand something
  • You avoid social situations
  • You don't enjoy being with people as much as you used to
  • You may be surprised to recognize some of these causes in your life. If so, don't be embarrassed to get your hearing checked. Most people are pleased by how simple treatment can be and are delighted by what a difference it makes.