Hearing loss is one of the most significant health issues today. Millions of people with hearing difficulties are born with it, while others develop the problem as they age. According to the National Institute of deafness and other hearing disorders, at least 25 percent of the seniors aged between 65 and 74 years suffer from one or two forms of hearing loss. The number doubles up to 50 percent for those aged more than 75 years.
Hearing loss is a broad term, which covers all forms of diseases that interfere with the normal hearing mechanisms. The loss could be caused by a structural issue within the ear or an external factor which makes it impossible to hear. Hearing loss takes place in many levels; it can be mild and affect your hearing partially, or it can be severe and affect your hearing permanently. In this blog, we have discussed the main types of hearing loss as well as how they can be treated.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are four main types of hearing loss. Let us have a close look at each one of them, together with the appropriate treatment for each.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss damages the hair cells of the ear or the nerve pathways which connect the inner ear parts and the brain. Most cases of sensorineural hearing loss are related to age, while others are caused by other factors. Most people who suffer from this disease report that they can hear the voices or sounds, but they cannot fully understand the speech.
There are two types of sensorineural hearing loss:
Acquired sensorineural hearing loss– This loss occurs after birth. It can be caused by aging, exposure to loud noise, disease and infections, tumors, and acoustic trauma. Some medications, such as chemotherapy drugs can also cause it.
Congenital sensorineural hearing loss– this type of hearing loss occurs during pregnancy. It can be caused by maternal diabetes, prematurity, genetics, lack of oxygen during birth, or mother to child transmitted diseases.
Treatment of sensorineural hearing loss
Most sensorineural hearing loss conditions are permanent. However, the acquired sensorineural condition can be treated with a cochlear implant. A cochlear implant is a hearing electronic device which is surgically implanted into the inner parts of the ear. The implant is highly effective, but you must ensure that an expert does it for the best results.
Conductive Hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss affects the middle and the outer parts of the ear. These include the external parts of the ear which are easily seen, such as the canal and the minuscule middle ear bones known as the ossicles. A conductive hearing loss may be temporary or permanent depending on how much it has affected the ear, or how soon it is treated.
So what causes the conductive hearing loss?
There are many factors which cause this type of loss, and they each occur at a different part of the ear. Let’s look at them in details:
External ear conductive hearing loss
The common causes of external ear conductive hearing loss are:
Earwax– this is the leading cause of the conductive hearing loss problem. It happens when earwax gets stuck in the ear canal.
Swimmers ear– this is caused by ear tenderness, pain, and swelling of the ear canal.
Bony lesions– these are growths which grow on the external ear walls making the canal very narrow. The condition becomes worse when wax blocks the remaining canal passage, making it impossible for the person to hear anything.
Malformations– most of the deformities are genetic, and in most cases, they affect one ear.
Middle ear conductive hearing loss
As earlier mentioned, the conductive hearing loss affects the external or the middle parts of the ear.
Discussed below are the causes of middle ear conductive ear loss:
Fluid- the fluid which collects in the middle part of the ear can cause a temporary loss of hearing. A Eustachian tube dysfunction mostly causes the fluid, and it is common in children. Ear infections-the ear infections which occur in the middle part of the ear can lead to permanent conductive hearing loss, especially when not treated early.
Eardrum collapse-a collapsed eardrum causes the conductive middle ear hearing problem.
Trauma– head trauma or trauma to the ossicles can cause a conductive hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss treatment
Most cases are treated using hearing aids. However, if the infection has widely spread, medical surgery is required to treat the problem.
Mixed Hearing Loss
A mixed hearing loss is a combination of the sensorineural and the conductive hearing loss. Most people suffering from this condition hear the voices well, although they cannot understand them.
Since the condition is caused by both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss, both the inner and the external parts of the ear are affected. The disease is caused by exposure to loud sounds, and can also be caused by genetical disorders. It can also be caused by the aging process, certain medications, and infections.
In short, all the causes of the conductive and the sensorineural hearing loss can cause mixed hearing loss.
Treatment of the mixed hearing loss
The treatment depends on the degree of the loss. It can be treated by surgery, medications, hearing aids, or use of implantable bone conduction hearing system. Your health provider will take you through the available options so that you can make an informed decision.
This is a rare form of hearing loss. It happens when there is a problem in the transmission of nerve impulses from the inner parts of the ear to the brain. Auditory neuropathy affects both ears, and the degree of infection can range from severe to mild. In some cases, the victim may hear when the voice is very loud. They can, however, hear better when the background is calm without any noise.
The symptoms of the disease fluctuate. For instance, a person may experience both hearing deteriorations and improvements. The sounds also tend to fluctuate; the person may hear everything in one sentence but fail to hear anything in the next sentence. It is, therefore, not easy to predict the outcome.
The exact cause of this form of hearing loss is not yet known. However, experts believe that it may be caused by damaged hair cells in the ear, damaged auditory pathway, and damaged a cochlear nerve or a damaged connection between the cochlear nerve and the hair cells.
The hearing and understanding loss can be corrected by cochlear implants and the use of hearing aids.
Hearing aids are a reliable treatment for hearing loss. They are used on all types of hearing loss. In spite of the design, technical features and the variety of shape, hearing aids are small electronic devices which improve hearing. They allow the victim to hear sounds better, understand speech more clearly and thus improve communication
Types of hearing aids
Behind- the- ear hearing aids
These aids are placed behind the ear. They transmit sound into the inner parts of the ear through a piece of clear and flexible tubing, which is usually connected to an ear mold. They can also transmit the sound through a soft tip which sits inside the ear canal. They are less noticeable, and they make the sound to pass in more naturally.
In- the – ear hearing aids
They come in different shapes and sizes, and they are placed inside the ear. They are not noticeable as they are placed inside the ear.
In- the – ear hearing aids are, however, not the best option for you if you have small ear canals, have a severe hearing loss, or experience frequent ear infections. Some of them come with a remote control to help those who find it hard to use the small controls.
Completely-in-the-canal hearing aids
As the name suggests, these aids are designed to fit further into the ear canal. They cannot be seen easily unless someone looks at your ear closely. Due to their small size, they lack the hearing loop setting. They are ideal for people with severe hearing problems.
Invisible in – the – ear hearing aids
These types of aids are new, but they are found in a few hearing aid providers. They are placed deep inside the ear, and thus, they are invisible. Some models are designed to stay in the ear for months.
During that time, the patient is advised to go for regular checkups to confirm if everything is in place. Other models are easy to remove, and you, therefore, don’t have to visit an audiologist to have them removed or cleaned. You can only use these types of aids if you have a moderate or mild hearing loss.
Body-worn hearing aids
They come with a small box which you use to clip the aid to your pocket or clothes. The box is connected to the aid by a soft tip or ear mould. Body-worn–hearing aids are designed for people who have sight issues, making it impossible for them to see the small buttons.
CROS/BiCROS hearing aids
CROS/BiCROS hearing aids are used by people who only hear with one ear. The aids pick sound from the ear, which has a hearing problem, then feed it to the hearing ear. Most of them are wired, but the wireless forms are also available.
Bone conduction hearing aids
People with conductive hearing loss use these types of aids. The aids deliver sound directly using vibrations to the cochlea through the skull. They can be worn using a headband or glasses with an attached bone conductor. In some cases, an operation can be done behind the ear to place a permanent fixture. When the surgery is done, there is no need to use a headband.
Hearing loss and dementia
Dementia is a broad term used to describe several cognitive failure symptoms. These symptoms include forgetfulness, communication difficulties, disorientation, memory loss, mood changes, and personality changes such as sudden loss of interests.
Many people are currently suffering from dementia, as studies suggest that 47.5 million people have the condition. Most of them are the aged, and the disease is therefore common to the older people.
The link between hearing loss and dementia
A study by the national institute on aging research and Johns Hopkins suggests that the people with a hearing loss have a higher risk of developing dementia, as compared to those without a hearing loss. The study found out that the patients with severe, moderate, and mild hearings losses were fivefold, threefold, and two-fold respectively, to developing dementia, as compared to those without any hearing issues.
Another study by Cardiff University found out the same link between hearing loss and dementia. They hypothesize that the lack of hearing indicates vascular problems, which later causes hearing loss and dementia.
From the results, we can conclude that there a closely linked relationship between dementia and hearing loss.
Researchers suggest that the connection happens when people struggle too much to hear. The straining overwhelms the brain, causes fatigue, and leaves them more vulnerable to dementia. Age, blood pressure, and diabetes are also contributing factors to the disease.
There is also speculation that people with hearing loss experience social isolation, which triggers dementia.
Social isolation causes cognitive decline and disorders, especially if it happens for a prolonged period.
Maintaining a healthy hearing.
It’s easy to overlook your hearing health, especially if you don’t have any troubling symptoms. While most children get regular checkups as they grow, most adults assume that they are okay. However, the truth is that anybody can get a person with hearing loss.
To stay safe, it is always helpful to schedule for regular hearing examinations. The tests are necessary as they help to diagnose any medical conditions. If you are diagnosed with any problem, the screening results will help the medical practitioner to prescribe the best medication for you. This also helps to prevent further damage. If you start your treatment early, then the high chances are that your hearing will be restored as soon as possible.
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