The Hearing Loss Association of America estimates that there are more than 48 million people with hearing loss across the country.
There are four causes of hearing loss. These include:
Auditory processing disorders
Auditory processing disorders result from the inability of the brain to interpret incoming information from the ear. The machinery in the ear may be working correctly, but if the brain cannot process incoming nervous signals, then there is a loss in hearing fidelity. People with auditory processing disorders are often able to detect sounds, but find it challenging to work out where they’re coming from or what’s being said.
Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss happens when problems with the outer and middle ear prevent the transmission of sound into the inner ear. When the inner ear doesn’t receive a noise signal, it cannot send information through the nerve to the brain.
Conductive hearing loss can be caused by all kinds of things, including impacted earwax, infections of the middle ear, perforated eardrum, and fluid buildup in the ear.
Sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss happens when the most critical component of the inner ear, the cochlea, malfunctions. The body uses the cochlea to convert sound waves into chemical signals, which then travel to the brain. If the cochlea is damaged, as in sensorineural hearing loss, then it cannot create these signals.
The causes of sensorineural hearing loss, like conductive hearing loss, are many and include aging, genetic conditions and adverse interactions of the inner ear with some medications.
Mixed hearing loss
Finally, mixed hearing loss is when a person has a combination of any of the aforementioned types of hearing loss. It’s common, for instance, for an older adult to suffer from both age-related sensorineural hearing loss as well as conductive hearing loss from a buildup of earwax.
What are the top signs of hearing loss?
Now that we’ve learned about the four main types of hearing loss, what are the top signs that you or somebody you know might have it?
Speech sounds muffled
People with hearing loss often struggle to hear speech. People talking across a room may sound muffled or unusually quiet. A person with hearing loss might find themselves asking others to “speak up” or repeat what they’ve just said.
Difficulty picking out sounds in a noisy room
Most people take it for granted that they’re able to isolate the sound of the person they’re talking to in a noisy or crowded room. But for people with hearing loss, distinguishing individual voices is a challenge. Those with hearing loss tend to struggle with focusing on a particular sound and suffer from a lack of directional hearing.
Regularly having to turn up the volume on the television or radio
A good indication that somebody is in the early stages of hearing loss is that they have to turn up the volume on their radio or television frequently. The TV may be unusually loud, and the person with hearing loss may receive complaints from friends and family members. To the person with hearing loss, however, the volume is perfectly comfortable.
Difficulty hearing children and women
Hearing loss doesn’t always affect a person’s ability to hear all frequencies equally: sometimes, it affects specific pitches. Those with hearing loss, for instance, may struggle to hear higher pitched sounds, including the voices of women and children. Listening to men, by contrast, may cause no issues.
Withdrawing from social situations
Social interactions can be stressful when a person can’t hear those around them. People with hearing loss, therefore, may decide to withdraw from friends and family and live in isolation. Isolation, in turn, can lead to feelings of depression and worthlessness.
Difficulty hearing people over the telephone
Telephone conversations are particularly problematic for those with hearing loss because they cannot see the lips of the person speaking. Many people with hearing loss compensate for hearing loss by carefully watching lip movements and then inferring what’s being said. But over the telephone, there are no other visual cues: a person with hearing loss must rely on their ears alone, and that can create difficulties.
Hearing loss can get worse over time, which is why it is vital to catch it early. Getting hearing aids from a hearing instrument specialist, such as Beck Hearing Aid Center can help improve quality of life and enable a person to feel confident again in social situations. If you think you have the signs of hearing loss, call us at (519) 438-0492 for a consultation.