Did you know that one in ten Americans are affected by hearing loss? You may be experiencing a gradual loss in hearing and not even be aware of it. Informing yourself of the causes and types of hearing loss, as well as prevention techniques, can significantly delay impairment.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be caused by many factors, but age and noise are the two most common causes. Statistically, we all begin to lose our hearing when we are in our 40’s and more than half of all people over age 80 suffer from a large reduction in hearing ability. Why does this happen? Tiny hair cells inside your inner ear help you to hear. They pick up sound waves and change them into the nerve signals that the brain interprets as sounds. As we age, the tiny hair cells are damaged or die and they are not capable of regrowth.
Loud noises play a large role in the damage of hair cells in the inner ear, often accelerating cell damage. Exposure to excessively loud noise for longer periods such as in the workplace, at concerts, or through headphones has been shown to cause damage. In addition, brief, high-intensity noise such as fireworks, gunshots, or air horns will damage the inner ear hair cells.
Hearing loss can also occur as a result of other causes such as:
- Disease or infection
- Certain syndromes
- Medications and drugs
- Injuries to the head
- Malformation or blockage of the ear
- Genetic factors
- Alcohol and tobacco
Types of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can be sensorineural, conductive, or mixed. Damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear results in sensorineural hearing loss; age-related hearing loss (also called Presbyacusis) and noise-induced hearing loss fall in this category.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when conducting sound from the outer ear through the middle ear into the inner ear is blocked or reduced. Mixed hearing loss occurs when sound is blocked and inner ear hair cells are damaged, a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
There are several other ways that hearing loss can be defined:
- Bilateral: hearing loss in both ears
- Unilateral: hearing loss in one ear
- Sudden: hearing loss that occurs suddenly from one day to the other
- Hidden: hearing loss that occurs in situations with background noise (cannot be measured by a common hearing test)
Hearing loss is natural with age and will occur at some point in all of our lives. Loud noises are hard to avoid as we are exposed to them daily and unintentionally. Driving through traffic or roadwork on your way home, going to the gym, attending sports events, or even bringing your kids to the park are all ways that we become exposed to loud noise on a daily basis. Some techniques you should know and practice in order to delay loss of hearing includes:
- Wear earplugs: wearing a set of earplugs can make a huge difference as most earplugs reduce noise by 20 to 30 dB (decibels).
- Use caution when listening to music: don’t listen to music at more than 60% of max volume and take a break for at least 5 minutes every hour.
- Use noise-canceling headphones: wear headphones that cancel out loud noises when you are in a loud environment.
- Give your hearing about 18 hours to recover after exposure to lots of loud noise
- Get regular hearing checks: get a hearing check once a year if you’re over 40 and feel like you’re losing hearing or you work in a noisy environment.
If you are experiencing hearing loss, need to have a hearing check, or would like to receive treatment for hearing loss, make an appointment with Dr. Marc Dean at Fort Worth Ear & Sinus today!
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