Hearing loss is the third most common health problem in the United States; about 48 million people have some degree of hearing loss. The most common cause of hearing loss is age; as people get older, their hearing declines. About 50 percent of people over 75 have hearing loss. Researchers aren’t sure why, but they suspect a combination of genetic and environmental factors. The latter includes prolonged exposure to noise, so people who work in noisy occupations are vulnerable to hearing loss. Examples include plumbers, carpenters, musicians, farmers and miners. Some diseases and medications can also cause hearing loss. One of the most common treatments for hearing loss is hearing aids.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are three types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive and mixed. Sensorineural hearing loss, which is sometimes called nerve-related hearing loss, is caused by problems with the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss is caused by problems with the middle ear, ear canal or ear drum.
What are the Symptoms?
Hearing loss tends to be gradual, so people don’t usually notice when they are losing their hearing. During the early stages of hearing loss, a patient will have trouble hearing high-pitched sounds like children’s voices. They will also have trouble distinguishing “s” and “f.”
A patient with hearing loss will have trouble following conversations with multiple speakers. They will misunderstand what people are saying and may, therefore, respond inappropriately. A patient with hearing loss will have trouble hearing others and, thus, believe that other people are mumbling. They may develop tinnitus or “ringing in the ears.”
Doctors describe hearing loss as having degrees. For example, a person with mild hearing loss can follow one-on-one conversations, but background noise impairs their ability to catch every word. A patient with moderate hearing loss often has to ask people to repeat themselves, while a person with severe hearing loss may need hearing aids to follow conversations. A patient with profound hearing loss can’t hear other people at all.
What Should Someone Do If They Suspect Hearing Loss?
A person who thinks they are losing their hearing should see a qualified doctor. Hearing loss can have a medical cause, and treating the cause can restore the patient’s hearing in some cases. If the hearing loss is permanent, our doctor can determine if hearing aids can help the patient and which types would be best.
The office of Daniel J. Leeman, MD is proud to offer a variety of audiology services. If you suspect that you may need hearing aids, or if you simply want to have your hearing evaluated, make an appointment at our office in Austin as soon as possible. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and get started.