Your ears are what keep you updated about the whole world. Losing your hearing power means getting cut off from rest of the world. If one talks about the United States, hearing loss is the third commonest health problem there. The continuous rise in the problem can largely be attributed to listening loud music. Other factors causing hearing loss include infections, medications, earwax, age and more.
Understanding Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be defined a gradual decline in how well you can hear. It can be temporary or permanent, mild or severe depending on what causes this loss. Taking birth without hearing is congenital hearing loss. Hearing loss that happens overtime and can affect people of all ages is being discussed here.
How Hearing Loss Happens?
External ear canal, middle ear and inner ear are three main structures of the ear through which sound energy goes and you are able to hear sound. Hearing loss happens in the case of one or more of these structures being damaged.
It fades so slowly that you may not understand that your hearing power is on the wane. To start with, you’ll feel that people need to speak up when talking to you, telephone is not an apt device to communicate and people are mumbling. And until you can hear some sound, you may think that there is nothing wrong with your hearing. You can know at the early stages that your hearing loss has begun by these symptoms:
- You have to ask people to repeat themselves.
- When you have roaring, hissing or ringing sounds in the ears (Tinnitus).
- When you have a feeling that your ear is plugged and have muffled hearing
- You frequently find it troublesome to understand phone conversations.
- You are not able to decipher “s” and “F” sounds and high-pitched sounds such as female and children’s voices.
- When you often respond appropriately to people misunderstanding what they are saying.
- When you have difficulty understanding a conversation made by more than one people.
- When you are not able to hear above background noise.
- When people frequently complain about the high volume of the TV turned on by you.
- When you often think that people are mumbling and not speaking clearing.
- When you feel that you head is spinning
- When you have an ear fluid leaking from it or have itching, pain or irritation in the ear.
Growing age is one of the most common causes of hearing loss though researchers are to this date not able to understand why our power of hearing declines with age. One reason behind it may be our ears getting exposed to noise and other damaging factors throughout the life thus a slow damage occurring in the delicate mechanics of the ear. In the age group of 65-74 there is one out of every three people suffering from hearing loss, this ratio scales up to one out of two above the age of 75.
Some professions have the employees such as mining, agriculture, military, transportation and manufacturing exposed to loud and continuous noise with 48% of plumbers and 44% of carpenters reporting some kind of hearing loss due to the dangerous noise levels. Even musicians are at risk of the loss of their hearing power and some of them now earplugs to protect the inner workings of their eras while they perform.
Certain medications can also cause hearing loss and/or balance. Among over 200 drugs that cause these kinds of side effects include aspirin, several drugs to treat erectile dysfunction, chemotherapy medicines, a drug used for the treatment of malaria, antibiotics and loop diuretics.
- Autoimmune disease such as rheumatoid arthritis may lead to autoimmune hearing loss in one or both ears. Such a hearing loss keeps coming and going and becomes worse over three to four months.
- Stroke, diabetes, heart disease or high blood pressure are certain conditions in which the flow of blood to the inner ear or parts of the brain may be interrupted and lead to hearing loss.
This apart, you may have reduced hearing because of these factors as well
- Blockage in your ear for infection or .
- Injury to your ear or head as this can cause a sudden hearing loss any damaging the ear structures.
- Meniere’s disease can also trigger temporary or permanent damage to hearing.
- Exostoses, glomus and osteomas are some of the benign tumors that if they block the ear canal, can cause hearing loss..
- Hearing loss can also occur due to infection in the middle ear or the ear canal.
- A condition like otosclerosis affecting the bones of the middle ear can also impair hearing.
- A noncancerous tumor on the nerve (acoustic neuroma)that makes it possible for people to hear.
- Hearing loss may also result from the fluid in the middle ear after travelling on an airplane or after you flu or a cold.
It leaves a negative impact on the hearing power when it involves punctured eardrum or skull fracture.
Doctors categorize hearing loss into different levels which are described below:
Mild Hearing Loss
When suffering from this kind of hearing loss, a person though he/she is fine with one-on-one interactions, he/she a problem hearing words properly over background noise.
Moderate Hearing Loss
A moderate hearing loss is indicated when you frequently start asking people to repeat themselves during personal and telephonic chitchats.
Severe Hearing Loss
When one is not able to follow a conversation without the use of a hearing aid.
Profound Hearing Loss
This kind of hearing loss is an advanced stage of the condition. In this condition, you have to use a cochlear implant or hearing aid to hear people speaking or hear them only if they speak extremely loud.
Before your matter reaches beyond mending, brace yourself up and get going for preventive measures:
- Use hearing protectors such as earmuffs or earplugs if you have to be at a place where there is a lot of noise.
- Though the damage already done due to noise can’t be reversed, try your best to preserve of what is left of your hearing by taking preventive safeguards.
- There are many situations where you can be exposed to harmful noise levels- at home, at work. Make yourself aware to all of them so that you can know how to protect your ears in these situations.
- Reduce the noise levels wherever you can in your personal life; it may be by turning down the volume on a car radio, TV or stereo and on personal listening devices which have ear bud or earphones.
- Hearing loss is more likely to occur if you smoke. Therefore, stop smoking.
- Get your child vaccinated for meningitis and other such conditions so that he/she can be protected against pneumococcal disease and hearing problems.
- If there is earwax, leave it alone. Scratching your ear or using a hairpin, cotton swab or other objects in the ear to remove earwax may be risky. Ask your doctor how to remove hardened wax.
- If you are traveling by air, keep swallowing and yawning frequently when the plane is about to land. Use a decongestant or decongestant spray just before the landing if you have an upper respiratory problem such as flu, cold or sinus infection.
- Speak to your employer about the safety of ears if you work in a workplace full of noise.
- Cover your ears when you moving past a noisy construction site.
- Leave the place instantly where there is a lot of noise if possible.
How to Handle Hearing Loss
There are few basic things that you can do to ensure that you can hear without much effort what people are saying when they are talking to you. Do a few things so that you have a two-way communication with your folk and friends. To start with,
- You should have well-lit room and chair that face each-other.
- Turn off the TV if no one is watching and remove other sources of background noise if possible.
- Before you start speaking with them, make sure you have them in attention.
- Speak clearly without shouting.
- Ensure when they talk you can see their lips moving.
In addition to all this, there are some hearing devices which you can use to make up for your hearing loss:
These devices help alert you to sounds such as a ringing telephone, doorbell , baby monitor and more.
TTY (Text Telephone)
This type of device also called telecommunication device for the deaf or TTD replaces talking or listening with the typing of messages (back and forth) on the phone.
These sorts of devices amply each and every sound that includes your own voice too. It may take you some time before you get used to a hearing aid.
These are messages which you can type and send through your mobile device to anyone you want to.
These devices help you listen the sounds clearer by shortening the distance between the source of sound and you , reducing background noise and making them louder for you.
You can read the words which are shown at the bottom of the screen with such a kind of device.
How to Treat Hearing Loss?
There are different treatments for different types of hearing loss:
- Antibiotics are what generally prescribed for the treatment of a hearing loss that occurs due to infection.
- Hearing aids help those people who have permanent hearing loss. These aids are typically worn in or behind the ear and make sounds louder. However, sounds may sound quite different wearing them hence talk to your doctor so that you can get the most benefit when using it.
- There are a host of other sound-amplifying devices you can use to listen better. Some of these are TV-listening devices using which you can hear radio or television without turning its volume up and phone-amplifying systems with the help of which you can converse on mobile and home phones.
- Though Cochlear implants are used in children with hearing loss, but older adults who have profound hearing loss too have started using them.
- Speak to your health care provider to know the alternative medication options if you think a particular drug has triggered your hearing loss. The chances of recovery increase if sudden hearing loss is treated promptly.
When to Seek A Medical Help?
You should call a doctor immediately in the following condition:
- Development of sudden and severe hearing loss
- If you feel that your child is not hearing well
- When you feel the need of hearing aids
- Hearing loss after taking medication
- A hearing loss caused by earwax
- If there is gradual decline in your hearing
- Hearing loss after air travel
- Hearing loss after flu symptoms such as cold
Your doctor will decide the treatment after determining the cause behind you hearing loss. He/she may also refer you to an ear, nose and throat specialist once he/she is through with his/her investigations so that you can get a prompt treatment.