Hearing Loss Overview
What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss occurs when sounds fail to reach the brain due to complications with the auditory system. There are two main types of hearing loss: sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Here at P.K. Lambert and Associates, we tend to focus more on sensorineural hearing loss, as it is the most common form facing our patients.
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by malfunctioning hair cells inside the inner ear or a problem with the hearing nerve. It affects your ability to hear quiet sounds and lowers the quality of the sound that you hear. Unfortunately, it is also irreversible. There are two ways people usually develop this type of hearing loss: through a natural process of aging, and though noise exposure. Let’s explore each one in turn.
Types of sensorineural hearing loss:
Age-related hearing loss
Many of us develop some hearing loss we age. Also known as presbycusis, age-related hearing loss tends to affect both ears and increases as you age. It is the most common cause of hearing loss today. The condition is caused by the slow degradation of the tiny sensory cells called ‘hair cells’ in the cochlea (your hearing organ) over a long period of time, with certain genetic traits also helping to increase the risk.
Noise-induced hearing loss
This is the second biggest cause of hearing loss. It is caused by chronic exposure to excessive levels of noise – for example, noisy workplaces or loud leisure activities such as listening to music or partaking in certain kinds of sports. Others have developed the condition from exposure to single loud bursts of noise such as gunshots and explosions. Those who have returned from conflict zones typically show signs of this kind of hearing trauma.
The effects of noise-induced hearing loss often appear gradually. It may be years after your cumulative exposure to loud noise that you might suffer the effects. Once it has arrived however, it isn’t going anywhere. That is why it is so important to exercise prevention from an early age.
The point at which hearing damage occurs is usually around 85db of sound, which is about as loud as a busy city street filled with traffic. There is a sliding scale of acceptable noise exposure before which real damage is done. For sounds at 85db, one would have to be exposed for eight hours before it becomes dangerous. This might not sound too urgent, but consider that for every 3db increase over 85db, safe exposure time is reduced by half. That means you can only attend a rock concert at 121db for a mere seven seconds before lasting damage occurs.
Hearing Loss Prevention
It is important that you protect your hearing from noise. You can do this by wearing earplugs in noisy places and avoiding loud sounds when you can. Places to be careful include outdoor concerts, sports events, and sports in noisy conditions. If you’re looking for hearing protection that is specially fitted for your ears, we can help! We offer custom hearing protection for a range of leisure and work activities.
Symptoms of hearing loss
A common early sign of hearing loss is the increasing difficulty in hearing high-frequency sounds, such as the voices of women and children. Aside from this, certain consonants such as ‘s, ‘f’ and ‘th’ can also be misconstrued. Hearing in background noise becomes more difficult as lower frequency sounds from background noise appear louder than the higher frequency sounds coming from the person talking to you. Here are some other key indications that you might have hearing loss:
Seeking Treatment for Hearing Loss
Unfortunately, there is no cure for either age-related or noise-induced hearing loss, but many people find treatment with the use of hearing aids to be hugely beneficial. Not only do they improve your hearing in your day-to-day life, they ensure the part of your brain which processes sound is still used regularly, which may help reduce the risk of cognitive disorders such as dementia in later life.