One in six Australians is known to have hearing loss. You can have trouble with your hearing at any age, but help is available and there are ways to stop hearing loss from getting worse.
Hearing loss can be caused by a range of factors. Some temporary, some permanent. But almost all are treatable. It is important to seek medical assistance early whenever you believe you are suffering any form of hearing loss. Treatment is often painless and the benefits for maintaining your hearing are broad.
Hearing loss has been linked to a range of other conditions including mental health decline from not being able to engage socially, to balance problems, to cognitive decline. For reference, a “sign” of hearing loss is what a healthcare professional such as an audiologist detects from a hearing test or examination. A “symptom” is what you notice but may not be able to have measured.
Symptoms of hearing loss can vary depending on the type of hearing loss you are experiencing. Temporary hearing loss can occur when we are exposed to loud noise for a period of time or when we are suffering from a cold or flu. Permanent hearing loss can occur over time with seemingly little notice. We go into more detail on these below but general symptoms of hearing loss can include:
- Speech is muffled
- People say you have the tv or radio turned up loud
- Difficulty hearing high pitched sounds such as buzzers, alarms, doorbells, telephone, birds
- Difficulty hearing people when speaking on the phone
- Asking people to repeat themselves or to speak more loudly or clearly
- Ringing in the ears (also known as tinnitus)
- Hypersensitivity to some sounds appearing too loud (otherwise known as recruitment)
- Difficulty understanding speech when there is background noise such as in public places
What Causes Hearing Loss
- Years of exposure to loud environments, such as machinery or music
- Ear infections
- Exposure to certain medications or chemicals
- Head injuries
- Wearing headphones with high volume
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
This is the most common type of hearing loss which affects about 90% of people with hearing deficiencies. This is when the cochlea, and/or the auditory nerve are damaged or malfunction so they are unable to accurately send electrical information to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs gradually over time and is almost always permanent.
The range of human hearing is 20Hz (deep bass), to 20,000Hz (very high pitched). As we age, we naturally lose the upper range of our hearing. Children are known to be able to hear dog whistles for example, while it generally sits above the range of normal adult hearing. Damage or degradation of the inner ear can cause us to lose the ability to detect different frequencies without losing our overall hearing.
- High-frequency hearing loss – leads you to miss sounds in the upper register of the hearing range. This is often related to Presbycusis, which is age-related hearing loss.
- Higher pitched voices become difficult to understand, such as women and children
- Sounds such as telephone ring, birds chirping or buzzers on alarms and timers
- Certain syllables become difficult to understand such as sh, s, f, v, th & p leading you to misinterpret words
- Noise Notch hearing loss – this is the loss of mid-high range frequencies and is a common sign of noise-related hearing loss. You may struggle to understand higher-pitched voices but you can still hear high pitched sounds.
- Mid-range hearing loss – Less common than high-frequency hearing loss. Understanding speech with background noise can become difficult and discomfort from loud sounds can occur, however, may still hear low and high pitched sounds very clearly, leading to a perception that your hearing is not hindered but instead your ability to interpret speech is diminishing.
- Low frequency – Less common still. Symptoms include having difficulty hearing men’s voices but not women’s or children’s. You may also notice a problem hearing people over the phone but not in person. Deeper environmental sounds such as thunder or bass in music may not be heard. Early-stage Meniere’s disease has been known to cause this type of hearing loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss
About 10% of people with hearing loss will suffer from conductive hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is where the outer or middle ear is not functioning properly, but the inner ear works fine. Causes include blockage (such as ear wax), ear infection, head injury, a damaged eardrum, fluid in the ear canal or abnormal bone growth in the middle ear (known as otosclerosis). This type of hearing loss is usually treatable either through medication or surgery. Hearing degradation can occur quicker than with sensorineural hearing loss and show similar symptoms, but the cause is often easily identifiable.
Mixed Hearing Loss
With this type, there is both conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss.
Assessment And Treatment
At A Better Ear, we have years of experience diagnosing and treating all types of hearing impairments. Our treatment options are designed to work with you and return your quality of life. Returning your hearing ability to as close to normal as possible will improve your physical and mental health, boost your social life and improve your overall lifestyle. A hearing test is a simple, non-invasive process that can assist in accurately diagnosing your condition. Speak to us today to book an appointment or if you have any questions about your condition or what you have read above.