Understanding Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is the third most common medical issue in the US, with over 31 million people being affected. Most people know someone who is affected by some form of hearing loss.
While hearing loss is natural as people age, people both old and young can be diagnosed with hearing loss. If you or a loved one is having a hard time following along in conversation or frequently asks for people to repeat themselves, it might be time to visit Florida Medical Clinic’s Audiology Department.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss generally takes place over an extended amount of time. To the individual, it may not seem like anything has changed until hearing loss has significantly progressed. Symptoms include:
- You have difficulty hearing conversation when a lot of background noise is present, such as in restaurants, malls, parties, or other social settings
- You prefer for the TV to be louder than others find comfortable
- You are not always sure what people are saying to you unless directly in front of them
- You can hear, but have difficulty understanding the words being said
- You have ringing noises in your ears (tinnitus)
- You feel like people mumble, even if the person is speaking at a normal volume
Hearing loss can negatively affect the patient’s quality of life. They may become withdrawn from family and social situations if they feel like it’s too difficult to communicate effectively. They can also have difficulties at work or school.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are two main types of hearing loss.
Conductive: Hearing loss which is related to the physical functions of the ear, such as the ear canal, middle ear, or ear drum. The patient’s hearing is normal, but sound waves are blocked in either the middle or outer ear and cannot reach the inner ear. This type of hearing loss is less common, generally treatable, and is not permanent unless left untreated.
Conductive hearing loss causes include…
- Pre-existing middle or outer ear structural issues
- Damage to the middle or outer ear
- Temporary blockages from allergies, colds, impacted wax, or ear infections
- Perforations in the ear drum
Sensorineural: Hearing loss which results from damage to the hair cells in the inner ear, which transmits sound to the brain. These hair cells do not regenerate, meaning that sensorineural hearing loss is permanent.
Causes of sensorineural hearing loss include…
- Excessive exposure to loud noises
- Trauma to the head or ear
- Hereditary hearing loss
- Viruses or diseases
Some patients may be affected by aspects of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
Practicing healthy hearing habits, such as limiting your exposure to loud noises and using ear protection if you will be participating in noisy activities, will help limit further loss.
Living With Hearing Loss
For many people, hearing loss is an unavoidable part of aging. Accepting the reality can be difficult, but it’s not impossible to move forward. Most types of hearing loss can be improved with external devices. With advances in technology, there are plenty of options so that you can find the perfect fit for your lifestyle. Tips for living with hearing loss include:
Purchase and wear a hearing aid.
Hearing aids are a common way to improve hearing loss. Some hearing aids even have Bluetooth capability so that you can stream phone calls and music directly to the device!
Consider a cochlear implant for severe hearing loss.
These devices are fitted directly to the inner ear, bypassing any damaged elements in the ear canal. They don’t substitute normal hearing, but provide a sense of sound for those with severe hearing loss.
Make use of Hearing Assistive Technology (HAT).
Many public places offer Assistive Listening Devices for the hard of hearing, including movie theaters, places of worship, concert venues, and more. You’ll be able to enjoy yourself more when you can hear what’s going on!
Your family is also a crucial base of support.
Enlist your family’s help and make adjustments so that communicating is as easy and frustration-free as possible.
- Stand in front of your loved ones while they are talking so they can pick up on facial cues and lip-reading
- Speak more slowly to the person affected by hearing loss, and be patient if they ask you to repeat yourself
- Use gestures to help with communication
- Stay positive and relaxed, and bring humor into the conversation to ease any building tension
The Audiology Department at Florida Medical Clinic
While it’s common for people to have physical exams on a regular basis, it’s just as important to have regular hearing exams. Even if you do not have symptoms of hearing loss, it’s valuable to be able to track the health of your hearing.
At Florida Medical Clinic’s Audiology Department, all of our audiologists are Board Certified. It’s our goal to accurately assess, diagnose, and find the best treatment plan for your hearing loss in a comfortable and welcoming environment. Make an appointment today!