Causes of hearing loss
Causes in the middle ear
Inflammation, fluid behind the eardrum, perforations of the eardrum and Otosclerosis (a stiffening of the bones in the middle ear) are the most common problems to interfere with middle ear function. Most middle ear problems can be addressed effectively with medication or surgery. If this is not possible, the hearing loss can be compensated with a hearing aid.
Causes in the inner ear
The majority of hearing issues concern the inner ear (C). The most common cause is the natural aging process. However, loud noise, certain medication, disease or trauma to the head can have an influence on a person’s hearing ability. These influences damage the fine hair cells and affect the transmission of signals to the auditory nerves. Usually, inner ear hearing loss cannot be addressed medically. However, this type of hearing loss can be corrected with a hearing aid in most cases.
What are the different degrees of hearing loss?
Between “hearing well” and “hearing nothing” lies a wide range of hearing loss. Experts distinguish between mild, moderate, severe and profound hearing loss.
The sound of speech: Human speech consists of vowels and consonants at different loudness and frequency levels. They are recorded on the audiogram as a so-called “speech banana”. It is an easy way to check whether the entire spectrum of speech is still audible and how a person’s hearing changes with time.
- Mild hearing loss: Soft noises or speech are not heard. Understanding speech is difficult in a noisy environment.
- Moderate hearing loss: Soft and moderately loud noises are not heard. Understanding speech becomes very difficult if background noise is present.
- Severe hearing loss: Only loud noises are heard. Communication would be significantly impaired.
- Profound hearing loss: Some very loud noises are heard. Without a hearing aid, communication is no longer possible even with intense effort.
How Your Ear Works
Tinnitus is the noises or ringing in the ears when there is no other external sound or noise. Usually the sound is described as a ringing, although some hear a clicking, hissing, electric buzzing, humming or roaring noise, and the sound may appear to be coming from one ear or both. It can also be intermittent or continuous.
Most people with tinnitus have some degree of hearing loss. Hearing loss may have many different causes, but one of the major sources is cochlear damage.
Tinnitus is not a disease, but rather a symptom that can result from a number of underlying issues. It is a common symptom, which affects 10-15% of people. The most common cause is noise-induced hearing loss, but other causes can include ear infections, tumour, exposure to certain medicine, a previous head injury and earwax. Stress and fatigue can make the symptoms of tinnitus worse.
Exposure to noise can lead to hearing loss, and therefore increase the chance of suffering from tinnitus. Those working in a noisy environment, such as industrial workers, are considered high risk due to their long-term exposure to high noise levels. Sudden noises can also lead to tinnitus, such as concerts, listening to music that is too loud either in cars or through headphones.
Prolonged exposure to sudden or long-term noise can result in damage to hearing, which can then lead to tinnitus. The best prevention for tinnitus is avoiding loud noise, reducing the noise source or protecting your ears through ear plugs.
Where tinnitus is present, hearing aids may help some sufferers mask the noise and lower the intensity of their symtoms. Properly fitted hearing aids can significantly reduce the tinnitus from hearing loss as they can distract the person through amplification of environmental sounds. Some modern hearing aid developments specifically include tinnitus masking functionality to aid in the accurate treatment of tinnitus.
If suffering from tinnitus, it is best to find the appropriate hearing protection or hearing aid to reduce your symptoms. Ears to You can provide you with the best independent advice available.
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