Ideally, for optimal hearing health, people over the age of 50 are encouraged to have an annual hearing test. Even if you don’t experience any signs of hearing loss, having that annual hearing test allows us to monitor your hearing abilities. If a hearing loss is detected, then we will be able to take immediate steps for treatment.
Hearing loss is more of a common medical condition than you may think. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- An estimated 48 million people have hearing loss in at least one ear
- Nearly 50% of people ages 12-35 are exposed to unsafe levels of noise that can contribute to hearing loss
- Hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition in the United States and is twice as prevalent as diabetes or cancer
The prevalence of hearing loss highlights that it is a public health epidemic impacting people of all ages. Impairment to hearing often happens gradually so it can be more challenging to be aware that it is occurring. It can go unnoticed and untreated for quite some time which can worsen the impairment and contribute to difficult health outcomes.
Being able to identify the symptoms is critical to addressing hearing loss.
Symptoms of Hearing Loss
There are numerous symptoms of hearing loss that you may experience mildly to severely. If you experience any of the following, you should schedule a hearing test with us as soon as possible:
- Tinnitus which refers to a ringing or buzzing sound in one or both ears
- Regularly increasing the volume on electronic devices including tv, phone, speaker, laptop etc.
- Difficulty following conversations because sounds are muffled
- Unable to distinguish individual words
- Frequently needing others to repeat themselves, speak loudly, and/or slowly
- Struggling to hear especially in environments with background noise
- Being able to hear better in one ear over the other
These symptoms reduce your ability to absorb and process sound which has multifaceted effects that make managing daily life challenging. Early detection of these symptoms can significantly help you transition to better hearing and an overall healthier life.
How Hearing Loss Happens
There are a variety of factors that can contribute to the development of hearing loss including existing medical conditions, genetic history, and environmental exposure to loud noise. These factors impact the auditory system which is how we take in and process sound. This system involves the complete function of the ear which consists of three main components:
- Outer Ear: consists of the most visible part of the ear as well as the ear canal and eardrum which separates the outer from the middle ear.
- Middle Ear: made up of three tiny bones that are connected (known as the ossicles) and the eustachian tube which is responsible for maintaining pressure within the ear.
- Inner Ear: includes the cochlea, filled with thousands of hair cells and fluid, and nerve pathways leading to the brain.
The outer ear absorbs sound from the environment which travels down the ear canal and strikes the ear drum causing it to vibrate. This activates the ossicles which help amplify and push the soundwaves further into the inner ear. Causing the hair cells and fluid to vibrate, this movement helps translate the soundwaves into electrical signals that are then sent to the brain to process and assign meaning to. Any disruption of this process impairs hearing which is most commonly the result of the hair cells in the inner ear being damaged. These hair cells do not regenerate so any damage is permanent and can only be managed through treatment.
Fortunately, addressing your symptoms is relatively simple! The first step is to schedule an appointment to have your hearing abilities examined. Hearing tests involve a noninvasive process that measures your hearing ability in both ears, diagnoses any impairment, the degree, and specific type of hearing loss you may be experiencing. This information informs the best treatment options that meet your specific hearing needs.
Hearing loss is most commonly treated by hearing aids which are electronic devices that help absorb, amplify, and process sound. These instruments, like many other pieces of technology, have experienced much innovation over the years. There is a wide variety of options that have numerous features designed to easily integrate into your life and provide you with seamless listening experiences. Hearing aids can drastically improve one’s ability to hear which truly enhances your quality of life and overall wellness!