Conductive Hearing Loss
A hearing loss is considered conductive when there is a problem with sound passing through the outer or middle ear systems, such as the ear canal, the eardrum and/or the three bones connected to the eardrum. Common reasons for this type of hearing loss are a plug of excess wax in the ear canal, fluid behind the eardrum, holes in the eardrum, and conditions such as Otosclerosis. Medical treatment or surgery may be available for this type of hearing loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
A hearing loss is sensorineural when it results from damage to the inner ear, including the cochlea (our organ of hearing) or auditory nerve, often as a result of the aging process or significant noise exposure. Sounds may be unclear and/or too soft. Sensitivity to loud sounds may also occur. Medical or surgical intervention cannot correct most sensorineural hearing losses. However, hearing aids may help you reclaim some sounds that you are missing.
Mixed Hearing Loss
A hearing loss that is considered mixed in nature has both components of a conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. In this case, there may be a potentially temporary hearing loss caused by the outer or middle ear, in addition to a more permanent hearing loss due to inner ear damage.
Some conditions related to hearing that we see and treat often in our patients include:
Tinnitus is the perception of a noise, such as ringing, buzzing, hissing, etc., in one or both ears, without an actual external source being present. While there is no absolute cure for tinnitus, there are various treatment methods that can help reduce the severity of it and/or your perception of it. See the “Tinnitus” tab for more information.
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Otosclerosis is a condition where there is abnormal bone growth within the ear, causing the bones in the middle ear to be fixed and not vibrate and move properly
Eustachian tube dysfunction
Failure of the valve in the tube that equalizes pressure in the ear to not open/close properly, causing a buildup of negative pressure in the middle ear space
Inflammation of the middle ear characterized by the accumulation of infected fluid in the middle ear space, bulging of the eardrum, pain in the ear and, if eardrum is perforated, drainage into the ear canal
Infection of the outer ear canal that leads to the ear drum, usually due to bacteria, fungus, and is often referred to as ‘swimmer’s ear’
A disorder of the inner ear that causes episodes in which you feel as if you’re spinning (vertigo), and you have fluctuating hearing loss with a progressive, ultimately permanent loss of hearing, ringing in the ear (tinnitus), and a feeling of fullness or pressure in your ear. It is characterized by endolymphatic hydrops, which refers to increased hydraulic pressure within the inner ear system
Also known as age-related hearing loss, it is the cumulative effect of aging on hearing
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Hearing loss caused by excessive exposure to damaging noise levels. This causes permanent and irreversible damage to the inner ear
A condition caused by hyalinization and subsequent calcification of subepithelial connective tissue of the eardrum. In other words, a hardening or thickening of portions of the ear drum, which can prohibit sound from passing through properly
An abnormal skin growth that develops typically in the middle ear space behind the eardrum
Hearing Loss and Dementia
There is a strong correlation between untreated hearing loss and dementia. Adults with untreated mild hearing loss are twice as likely to develop dementia, which increases to 5 times as likely for people with severe hearing loss. People over the age of 75 have a 30-40% faster decline in cognitive abilities compared to peers without hearing loss.
Frequently Asked Questions
At what age is hearing loss normal?
Hearing loss is normal at all ages. Some people are born with hearing loss and others acquire it through the years for various reasons including noise exposure, medications, aging and genetics among other reasons
Can low frequency sound damage hearing?
Any frequency can cause damage to your hearing, whether it is a low frequency or high. Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by a combination of the volume of the sound and the amount of time you are exposed to it. You can listen to sounds at a lower volume for longer without damaging your hearing. The louder the sound is, the shorter the exposure time is before your hearing is damaged.
Can a hearing aid damage your hearing?
Hearing aids will not damage your hearing. They are programmed very specifically based off your personal hearing thresholds. The devices also have a maximum power output, where they will not amplify sounds that are too loud. In addition, hearing aids apply amplification differently based on the volume of a sound. Hearing aids can identify the difference between soft sounds, moderate level sounds and loud sounds.
Does hearing loss affect memory?
Recent studies suggest that untreated hearing loss can be linked to cognitive decline and dementia. The brain is very much a “if you don’t use it, you lose it” mechanism. With a hearing loss, whether it be mild or more severe, you are missing sounds in your environment. These could be soft sounds such as the leaves blowing in the wind, a clock ticking, your fridge humming, etc. When you are missing these soft signals, your brain and auditory pathways are not being as activated as they should be. Hearing aids help to bring soft sounds back into your range of hearing, which in turn keeps those pathways active and leads to a healthier brain.
How can I improve hearing loss naturally?
Protect your hearing! Wear hearing protection when exposed to loud noises.
How do you check for hearing loss?
Schedule an appointment with an audiologist to receive a hearing test. During the test we will: look in your ears to ensure there is no blockage, ensure the eardrums are healthy, check your hearing thresholds by asking you to respond to beeps, and have you repeat words.
How do you protect your hearing as you age?
Wear hearing protection when exposed to loud noises. And, wear hearing aids to get the brain stimulation needed to preserve the clarity of noise and help prevent memory loss.
Can ear wax build up cause permanent hearing loss?
Earwax may cause a temporary hearing loss.
How do I know if my hearing loss is permanent or temporary?
After receiving a hearing test, an audiologist or an ear nose and throat physician will be able to determine if your hearing loss is permanent or if medical intervention may improve your hearing.
How much hearing loss requires a hearing aid?
Hearing aids are recommended for any degree of hearing loss. Hearing aids will help you to hear better in your environment but the hearing aid also supplies the brain with soft-sound stimulus in your environments (clock ticking, fridge humming, etc). With an untreated hearing loss you are missing soft sounds which means your brain pathways are not being stimulated normally. Hearing aids keep your brain stimulated by bringing soft sounds back into your environment.
Is hearing loss genetic?
Hearing loss can be genetic, but it can also be a result of your environment, your lifestyle, and medications you have been exposed t
What causes hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be caused by many things including your age, genetics, noise exposure, medications, illness/infection, etc.
What does hearing loss feel like?
Sometimes hearing loss occurs so gradually that you may not realize you have hearing loss. Other times it can be more sudden and sounds seem muffled or unclear.
What does high pitch hearing loss mean?
High pitch hearing loss, also known as high-frequency hearing loss means there is only a hearing loss in the higher frequency range (usually above 2000 Hz). People that have a high-frequency hearing loss often say, “I can hear, but I cannot understand speech”. Consonant sounds like “p”, “s”, “f”, and “t” are all in the high-frequency range and can be easily misunderstood or missed completely causing gaps in speech and resulting in poor speech intelligibility.
What happens if hearing loss is not treated?
By treating hearing loss with hearing aids we provide sound information to the auditory cortex in the brain. Research has found correlations between the brain not receiving auditory stimulation and loneliness and dementia
What high frequency hearing loss sounds like?
People with high frequency hearing loss typically do not have trouble when they are having a one-on-one conversation in a quiet room. They will experience difficulty conversing while in background noise, and may say things like “I can hear you, but I am just missing exactly what you are saying.”
What is borderline hearing loss?
Borderline hearing loss is still considered normal but close to a minimal or mild hearing loss. Thresholds of 20 dB or 25 dB may be considered borderlin
What is mild hearing loss like?
A mild hearing loss is represented by hearing thresholds from 25 dB HL to 40 dB HL. Someone that has a mild hearing loss may have trouble understanding conversations while in background noise, trouble with the television, and may ask friends and family to repeat themselves. They often report that they can hear people speaking to them but are missing exactly what is being said.
What is moderate hearing loss?
A moderate hearing loss is represented by hearing thresholds from 45 dB HL to 60 dB HL. Someone that has a moderate hearing loss is missing many sounds that are essential for speech intelligibility.
What is normal hearing loss with age?
Hearing loss knows no age. Babies can have hearing loss and someone can have normal hearing at 70 years old. However, high-frequency hearing loss is COMMON as we age. The hair cells in the high-frequencies are more susceptible to damage from noise exposure and changes in vascularization.
What is the first sign of hearing loss?
Hearing loss can have many “first signs” including tinnitus (ringing in the ears), thinking others are mumbling, having to turn up the volume on the television, and having trouble hearing while in background noise such as a restaurant or crowded areas.
What is the treatment for mild hearing loss?
If the loss is sensorineural (permanent) then hearing aids would be the option. This always depends on how much trouble the patient is experiencing and the lifestyle of the patient
What kind of hearing loss is permanent?
Sensorineural hearing loss is typically permanent. Sensorineural hearing loss means that there is no mechanical issue in the middle ear occurring that is causing the hearing loss, rather damage to the inner ear hair cells in the cochlea or damage to the auditory nerve.
What percentage of hearing loss is legally deaf?
Percentages are not relevant in audiology. Degrees of hearing loss is the way that hearing loss is classified. If someone is legally deaf then the results from the hearing test would show a severe to profound sensorineural hearing loss. In terms of decibels this would mean that thresholds are 70 dB HL or worse from 250 Hz to 8000 Hz.
What percentage of hearing loss is moderate?
Percentages are not relevant in audiology. Degrees of hearing loss is the way that hearing loss is classified. A moderate hearing loss is represented by hearing thresholds from 45 dB HL to 60 dB HL.
What qualifies as hard of hearing?
Anyone that has hearing aids can be considered hard of hearing
What type of hearing loss is presbycusis?
Presbycusis refers to age-related hearing loss, which is a lifetime cumulative effect on hearing. Presbycusis typically presents itself as a high frequency hearing loss in both ears that is permanent. This hearing loss is caused by natural degeneration of the cochlea (the hearing organ) and supporting structures.