Hearing Loss Overview
Hearing Loss Overview
If you suffer from hearing loss but haven’t yet sought treatment, you’re not alone.
Nearly 50 million American adults live with hearing loss, and of those, only one out of five who could benefit from hearing aids actually wears them. Treating your hearing loss is not only about your ears--it’s a vital way of ensuring your overall health and happiness, now and in the years to come. Here are some basic facts about this common condition.
How do we hear?
While it’s true that we hear with our ears, there’s much more to it than this. Hearing is achieved through a complex process that involves not only the ears, but also the brain. It’s an intricate journey that begins in the outer ear and ends in the auditory cortex. Let’s take a closer look at the steps that make it possible for us to process sound.
Primary Causes of Hearing Loss
In most cases, hearing loss is sensorineural, or resulting from damage to the aforementioned nerve hair cells in the inner ear. These hair cells are fragile and cannot regenerate, which results in the hard of hearing person losing the ability to hear in certain frequencies.
Aging and noise exposure are the two most common causes of hair cell damage, though other factors such as head injuries, medications, viral infections and chronic medical conditions (such as hypertension and diabetes) can also lead to sensorineural hearing loss.
Far less common is conductive hearing loss, which is typically caused by an obstruction in the ear such as earwax or an abnormal growth of bone.
Conductive hearing loss can often be resolved medically, while sensorineural hearing loss has no cure. However, 95 percent of cases of sensorineural hearing loss can be effectively treated with hearing aids, greatly improving daily communication for the hard of hearing person.
Another common complaint often paired with hearing loss is tinnitus. This condition, which often accompanies hearing loss, is a buzzing or ringing in the ears which has no external source. Tinnitus can be intermittent or constant and can range from mild to severe. In serious cases, the unwanted sounds can lead to stress, anxiety, insomnia and depression--which is why addressing tinnitus is so important. Treating hearing loss with hearing aids can provide relief for tinnitus, as many devices come equipped with tinnitus therapy in the form of sound masking programs.
What if hearing loss goes untreated?
For most people, hearing loss happens quite gradually and is painless, which can make it difficult to realize that the loss is actually present. It is often not until friends or family members point out how serious the hearing loss has become that the hard of hearing individual decides to seek treatment. But the longer hearing loss goes untreated, the more serious its potential effects on a person’s physical health, emotional well-being and relationships.
When hearing becomes too difficult, communication with others suffers as a result. This communication barrier can cause individuals to withdraw from their friends and family, and the activities they once enjoyed. It’s a vicious circle, as this withdrawal increases their sense of detachment and isolation, resulting in feelings of loneliness, helplessness and depression.
In terms of physical health, untreated hearing loss has been linked to an increased risk of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia in multiple studies, as well as a higher rate of falls and resulting injuries.
Start on the path to better hearing with Evergreen Audiology
The good news is that there are just as many benefits that go along with treating hearing loss as there are health risks that come from ignoring it. Hearing aids have been shown to strengthen personal relationships, increase earning potential, improve personal safety, boost cognitive health, foster feelings of independence and make it easier to stay active. This list of reasons, among others, is why most people feel hearing aids are an investment that is well worth it.
The first step to better hearing is a complete hearing assessment, and our knowledgeable team is here to help. We want you to feel empowered about your hearing health, and are happy to provide expert advice, information and encouragement every step of the way. Get in touch to schedule your appointment today!