Signs of Hearing Loss

Symptoms and signs of hearing loss in adults

For many people, the signs and symptoms of hearing loss can go overlooked for years. Due to the gradual nature of hearing loss, it’s easy to not notice, or blame external people/situations for hearing challenges. In the general population, people wait an average of 7 years before seeking hearing help. There are benefits to seeking treatment sooner than later. Scheduling an annual hearing test is a simple way to monitor your hearing abilities and intervene if changes begin to occur. 

Common symptoms and signs of hearing loss include:

  • Social withdrawal and isolation
  • Increased feelings of anxiety & stress
  • Mental fatigue
  • The sense that people are mumbling
  • Difficulty hearing cell phone conversations
  • Finding conversations with your car passengers difficult
  • Asking people to repeat themselves often
  • Increasing the volume on your T.V. and Cell phone
  • Missing small sounds like doorbells, and appliances
  • Difficulty having conversations in restaurants
  • Difficulty hearing sounds behind you
  • Finding children and female voices the most difficult to understand

Common Causes of Hearing Loss

There are many ways in which people can lose their hearing. As we age, we naturally lose our hearing abilities over time due to the aging process. The degree and speed to which someone loses their hearing varies from person to person. Other causes of hearing loss include a history of occupational or recreational noise exposure. 

People can also experience hearing loss due to ototoxic medication prescribed by their doctors. Sometimes these drugs are necessary to prevent other medical problems, but come at a price to one’s hearing health. Beyond aging, noise exposure and ototoxic substances, people can also experience hearing loss due to medical conditions including diabetes, viral infections, injury etc.

Click here to learn about the auditory system and How We Hear

Types of Hearing Loss

Types of hearing loss include sensorineural, conductive and mixed hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL)

Sensorineural hearing loss accounts for about 90% of reported hearing loss. SNHL is generally permanent and can be mild, moderate, severe, profound, or total.  The most common kind of sensorineural hearing loss is age-related (presbycusis), followed by noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).  The root cause of SNHL lies in the inner ear or sensory organs, including cochlear hair cells. Inner hair cells transform sound vibrations into electrical signals that are sent to the brain. 

Conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss (CHL) occurs when there is a problem transferring sound waves anywhere along the pathway through the outer ear, eardrum or middle ear. Depending upon the severity and nature of the conductive loss, this type of hearing impairment can often be treated with surgery or medication to partially or, in some cases, fully restore hearing to normal. However, people with permanent or chronic conductive hearing loss may benefit from hearing aids to improve their hearing and speech perception.

Mixed hearing loss

If a conductive hearing loss occurs in conjunction with a sensorineural hearing loss, it is referred to as a mixed hearing loss. 

Hearing Loss Treatment Options

An individual’s treatment options largely depend on the type and severity of hearing loss.  Most people benefit from wearing advanced hearing instruments programmed specifically to their hearing loss. Hearing testing will indicate the specific frequencies and severity of loss, displayed on an Audiogram. Your hearing professional will use the results to  program your hearing aids to best suit your needs. 

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