Understanding Hearing Loss: The Silent Epidemic
Hearing loss, often called the 'silent epidemic', is an invisible condition affecting people of all ages. It's not just an inevitable part of ageing. Noise exposure, genetics, and lifestyle choices can all play a part. Let's dive into this topic and unveil the facts about hearing loss.
1. What Is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is a reduced ability to hear sounds in the same way as other people. It can range from mild difficulty in understanding speech in noisy environments to a total loss of hearing. There are three primary types of hearing loss:
- Conductive Hearing Loss: This is when the passage of sound is blocked in either the ear canal or the middle ear. The obstruction could be due to earwax build-up, fluid in the middle ear, or damage to the eardrum or ossicles (bones in the middle ear).
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss: This is the most common type of permanent hearing loss, often due to damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear or the auditory nerve itself. Ageing, excessive noise exposure, or certain diseases can cause sensorineural hearing loss.
- Mixed Hearing Loss: This is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
2. Signs and Symptoms
Hearing loss often develops gradually, and you may not notice it initially. Some common signs include:
- Difficulty understanding speech, especially in noisy environments
- Needing to turn up the volume on your TV or radio
- A feeling of 'fullness' in your ears
- Tinnitus a persistent ringing or buzzing in your ears
- Avoidance of social situations due to difficulty hearing
3. Causes of Hearing Loss
Numerous factors can contribute to hearing loss:
- Ageing: Age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, is a natural part of the ageing process.
- Noise Exposure: Exposure to loud noises over time can damage the cells in the inner ear. This includes exposure to loud music, machinery, and certain recreational activities.
- Medications: Some drugs, known as ototoxic medications, can harm the inner ear.
- Health Conditions: Certain illnesses such as Meniere's disease, otosclerosis, or autoimmune diseases can cause hearing loss.
4. Diagnosis and Treatment
Hearing loss is diagnosed through a comprehensive hearing test conducted by a professional consultant audiologist. The evaluation typically involves pure tone testing, bone conduction testing, speech testing, and immittance screening. Diagnosing hearing loss early is crucial to prevent further deterioration and improve your quality of life.
While hearing loss is often permanent, there are several effective treatment options available:
- Hearing Aids: These small devices amplify sound to make it easier to hear. Today's digital hearing aids are highly adjustable and can be tailored to your specific hearing loss pattern.
- Assistive Listening Devices (ALDs): ALDs can help you hear better in specific situations, like in a noisy restaurant or while watching TV.
- Cochlear Implants: These are used in cases of severe hearing loss where conventional hearing aids are ineffective.
- Medical or Surgical Interventions: These are appropriate in some cases, especially for conductive hearing loss.
Protecting your hearing is crucial. Here are some preventive measures:
- Use ear protection in noisy environments.
- Keep the volume at a safe level when using headphones.
- Have regular hearing check-ups, especially if you're above 60.
Remember, there's no need to navigate the journey of hearing loss alone. At Buchanan Audiologists, our consultant audiologist Eilene can provide professional guidance and personalised solutions. If you have concerns about your hearing, don't hesitate - early intervention is key. Call now on 01634 757045 to book a comprehensive hearing consultation. Together, let's make sure you enjoy the world of sound at its fullest.