What is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is defined as a partial or total inability to hear, and is described with three categories: type, degree, and configuration.
In the United States, an estimated 48 million Americans (20%) experience some degree of hearing loss. Approximately one in three older Americans (ages 65 and over) experience hearing loss, while for school-aged children, the statistic is 30 out of every 1000.
Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the US, after arthritis and heart disease. It is estimated that 60% of the workforce experiences some degree of hearing loss. Although hearing loss is quite common among older Americans, it is reported that it takes a person an average of seven years from the time they experience early signs of hearing loss until they take a hearing test and seek treatment.
A wide variety of hearing instruments featuring the latest technology are available at our office. Hearing aid evaluations, dispensing, programming and fitting are personalized for each patient. Amplification decisions include an analysis of patient daily activities, communication requirements and patient needs and preferences. We are sensitive to the patients’ concerns and we emphasize any limitations and explore any expectations prior to recommending a particular device. Additionally, we offer the appropriate state mandated trial period to ensure a reasonable acceptable adjustments to the fit and sound of your hearing instruments
Our hearing centers are equipped to provide comprehensive audiological evaluation of patients from birth through adult, provided by a licensed clinical audiologist who holds a Doctor of Audiology degree. Evaluations include measurements of hearing sensitivity for air and bone conducted sounds, measurements of word recognition ability, and assessment of the middle ear functions. Further diagnostic testing may be completed when necessary.
COUNSELING AND REHABILITATION
Our dedicated staff professionals provide counseling and aural rehabilitation that maximizes our patients’ personal adjustment and appreciation of hearing enhancement. Our best choice for amplification is only as effective as the quality and consistency of the follow-up and counseling sessions that we provide with your newly dispensed hearing device.
Special surveys and questionnaires are used together with testing procedures to help carefully evaluate those patients with tinnitus. Management options and recommendations will be included in the counseling portion of the appointment.
An otoacoustic emissions evaluation is a non-invasive objective test procedure that helps distinguish between the sensory and neural components of “nerve loss” hearing loss because of its sensitivity to cochlear function. This test can be used by the audiologist in the differential diagnosis of hearing loss, monitoring a progressive hearing loss due to ototoxicity or consistent exposure to loud music and testing in infants.
High frequency hearing testing is used to diagnose and monitor very high frequency hearing loss beyond the scope of the standard audiogram. This type of testing is used for patients on chemotherapy or for those experiencing a sense of hearing loss that is not apparent on the standard audiogram.
SPEECH IN NOISE
Because speech understanding in noise cannot be reliably predicted from the audiogram, this test may be administered to help understand the unique difficulties some patients encounter when trying to understand speech imbedded in noise. The test is used to compare each individuals speech in noise abilities compared to normal hearing listeners.
Real ear verification procedures validate acceptable hearing performance measured at the level of the eardrum. Verification using speech mapping is a procedure that uses a probe microphone and live speech to see and understand the benefits of a recommended device. The patient and family can be fully engaged in the assessment process by participating in the real-time speech measurements.
All patients can be reassured that they will be referred for appropriate medical follow up in the event that their audiometric results indicate their need.
Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss
Untreated hearing loss often time leads to greater health implications. People with untreated hearing loss are at higher risk for depression, and higher levels of stress and anxiety. With hearing loss, challenges include difficulty hearing and recognizing speech, which leads to people withdrawing socially and feeling isolated. Over time, this could take a toll on one’s emotional well-being.
Studies have found potential links between untreated hearing loss and dementia; when the brain struggles to hear and attempts to fill in gaps of sound, a cognitive load may occur which increases the risk for dementia. Untreated hearing loss has also been linked to a higher rate of falls and hospitalizations, as well as lower earning power in the workplace.
Types, Degrees, and Configurations of Hearing Loss
There are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss
is related to the outer and middle ear, ear canals and bones. Conductive hearing loss prevents sound from properly traveling through these areas of the area due to physical malformations or blockage.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
refers to problems with the inner ear structure, the ear cells, and the process by which sound waves are transformed into electric signals sent to the brain. Exposure to loud noise, aging, head trauma, and Meniere’s disease are all related to sensorineural hearing loss.
Mixed Hearing Loss
is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, affecting various areas of the ear simultaneously.
Hearing loss ranges in degrees of severity, from slight to profound. People with mild hearing loss might not be able to hear a whisper, while those who suffer from moderate to severe hearing loss will struggle to hear a conversation in a busy space, a TV set at high volume, or a doorbell. Profound hearing loss prevents people from hearing most musical instruments, and the shout of a human voice, to name a few.
The configuration of hearing loss refers to the different frequencies and tones one is able to hear. It also describes whether hearing loss occurs in one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral). Symmetrical hearing loss means the degree and configuration is the same in both ears, while asymmetrical means they are different depending on the ear.
Causes of Hearing Loss
There is no single cause of hearing loss. The two most common causes of hearing loss are age and exposure to loud sounds.
Age-related hearing loss, otherwise known as presbycusis, occurs naturally as we get older. It is believed that certain cells in our inner ear, responsible for the amplification and transmission of sound waves as signals to the brain, naturally die and cease to function. Since they do not regenerate, this leads to sensorineural hearing loss.
Exposure to loud sounds throughout our lives could gradually lead to noise-induced hearing loss. Exposure to a one-time loud event (such as a gunshot, explosion, or fireworks) could also lead to permanent hearing loss.
Other causes of hearing loss include certain diseases such as otosclerosis (a defect with middle ear bones), Meniere’s disease (a disorder of the inner ear, also related to tinnitus and vertigo), head trauma, perforated eardrums, ear infections (otitis media – infection of the inner ear), benign tumors and impacted earwax. Certain classes of medication that are ototoxic (poisonous to the ear) could lead to hearing loss; if you are experiencing side-effects, contact your primary doctor about your hearing.
Hearing Loss Treatment
Everyone hears differently, and there are many different factors that contribute to a hearing loss. If you are experiencing changes in your hearing, the first step is to schedule a hearing test and consultation with us at Gavin Audiology.
Though hearing loss is not curable, it is treatable through the prescription of hearing aids. Depending on the degree and configuration, we will find the best solution to meet your specific hearing needs