Hearing Loss

Do you sometimes worry about your hearing?

If you do, you are certainly not alone. In fact, you’re in quite good company.

Hearing loss is an extremely common concern in the United States, and it is estimated its effect is only going to become greater. Currently, hearing loss is the number one most commonly reported workplace injury, and is by far the most service-connected disability amongst American Veterans. Hearing loss is so common, it affects about one in every three people aged 65 to 74. For those over the age of 75, this number jumps to one out of every two.

What are the causes of hearing loss?

The two most common causes of hearing loss are due to natural aging, or excess exposure to noise. There are some instances in which hearing loss is caused by other factors, but these two are by far the most common.

Presbycusis (Age Related Hearing Loss)

Presbycusis is the fancy term for age related hearing loss – simply hearing loss that occurs as a natural part of getting older. Age related hearing loss is due to changes in our inner or middle ears, or changes in the complex nerve systems that transmit information from our ears to our brain. Age-related hearing loss typically affects both ears equally and occurs at an extremely gradual rate, so it can be very difficult to detect.
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Hearing Loss

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss

Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by excess exposure to noise. This can either be one extremely boisterous noise such as an airplane take-off within close range, or longer exposure to loud noises – such as busy traffic - over a period of years or even decades. Loud noises have the ability to damage the highly sensitive and tiny hair cells that are located in our inner ear. These little cells are responsible for taking the sounds our ears detect, and turning them into electrical signals in order to send to the brain for processing. Unlike presbycusis, noise-induced hearing loss is 100% preventable, with the proper use of hearing protection and living a lifestyle that takes hearing health into consideration.
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Noise-induced hearing loss

Less common causes of hearing loss.

Less commonly, hearing loss has been linked to the use of certain over-the-counter or prescription medicines that are termed ototoxic. The most commonly prescribed ototoxic drugs are those prescribed for cancer. Certain diseases such as Ménière’s disease, viral infections such as measles or mumps, shingles, or an injury to the head can also cause hearing loss, also known as sensorineural hearing loss.
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Less common causes of hearing loss.

How does normal hearing work?

Our ability to hear is actually a quite complicated and a rather magical system, involving a multitude of tiny body parts most people are completely unaware of. Even more amazingly, this entire process occurs instantaneously and constantly.

First, sound waves enter the ear and travel down the ear canal to our eardrum. Our eardrum then begins to vibrate and sends these vibrations to three tiny bones located in our middle ear. These little bones then couple the vibrations from the eardrum with vibrations in the cochlea – a small snail-shaped structure in our inner ear that is filled with fluid.

Next, the fluid within the cochlea begins to ripple due to the vibrations. Microscopic hair-like cells located within the cochlea essentially “ride these waves” by bending and moving along with the rippling fluid. This action causes the hair-cells to bend. When this happens, the hair cells are able to transmit the vibrations into electric signals.

Last, the hair cells transmit these electric signals to be carried along the auditory nerve to our brains. It is only at this phase when we hear and process sounds that we can understand.

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ear diagram

What are the signs of hearing loss?

Even though it can seem difficult to detect, there are actually many signs of hearing loss.

  • Ringing in the ears.

    Many people with hearing loss suffer from tinnitus – an annoying and phantom ringing, buzzing, whooshing, or clicking sound in one or both of the ears.

  • Complaints from friends and family.

    This is a big one. Your friends and family want to speak with you, and when they do, they want you to be able to hear and understand them. If your friends and family are commenting that you are not listening to them, or rise concerns about your hearing, it may be time to get a hearing screen.

  • Hearing but not understanding.

    Since high pitched and easily confused sounds such as “s”, “t” and “d” are often the first to go with hearing loss, it can leave people feeling as though they can hear the things people are saying, however, simply cannot understand the speech.

Are you ready to experience the benefits of treating hearing loss? Get in touch with us at Encore Hearing today!
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