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Hearing Loss

We’ve created this page to acquaint you with the various reasons for hearing loss and some of its signs. There is also information on treatment so you can get the professional help you need if you do detect a change in your hearing. We cover noise and hearing loss, childhood hearing loss, tinnitus and other types of hearing loss. You’ll learn about what can happen if hearing loss is left untreated and you’ll discover several prevention tips which can help protect your hearing.

Facts
General Guidelines Regarding the Incident of Hearing Loss
Noise and Hearing Loss
Facts About Childhood Hearing Loss
Signs of Hearing Loss
Types of Hearing Loss
Tinnitus “Ringing In the Ears”
Hearing Loss Treatment
Hearing Loss Prevention

Facts

General guidelines regarding the incidence of hearing loss:

  • 3 in 10 people over age 60 having hearing loss
  • 1 in 6 Baby Boomers, or 14.6% have a hearing problem
  • 1 in 14 Generation Xers have hearing problems
  • At least 1.4 million children have hearing problems
  • It is estimated that 3 in 1,000 infants are born with serious to profound hearing loss

Noise and Hearing Loss

  • Excessive noise is a major contributing factor for hearing loss
  • Experts agree that continued exposure to noise of 85 dB or louder, overtime will eventually harm hearing
  • If you cannot carry on a conversation in the presence of noise, it is too loud for your ears and can potentially cause hearing loss
  • 1 in 4 workers exposed to high levels of noise will develop a hearing loss
  • The number one reason people seek a hearing solution is the recognition that their hearing has worsened
    – Usually this occurs from making a serious mistake, family pressure or safety concerns
  • Professions at risk of hearing loss include firefighters, police officers, factory workers, farmers, construction workers, military personnel, heavy industry workers, musicians, and entertainment industry professionals
  • The ear has over 25,000 tiny hair cells to help you hear the nuances of sound

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Childhood Hearing Loss

  • The vast majority of hospitals now offer newborn hearing screening before discharge from the hospital
  • All children should be screened for hearing loss before 1 month of age
  • 85% of all children experience at least one ear infection
  • Second-hand smoke in the home increases the risk of middle ear infections and respiratory allergies in children
  • Infants may begin to use hearing aids as early as 1-3 months of age
  • Hearing loss can seriously impact a child’s ability to learn in a school environment

Children’s quality of life and development vitally depend on hearing. Children learn to speak because they hear others and themselves communicate. Hearing helps your child learn to read, appreciate music, and receive warnings of approaching harm. Your child will have difficulty coping with many of life’s challenges and opportunities at home and in school without good hearing.

Signs of Hearing Problems

The single most important sign of hearing loss in children is the failure to develop, or the delayed development of spoken language.

Common warning signs for hearing loss include:

  • Family member or teacher concern regarding:
    – Hearing acuity
    – Delays or differences in speech and language development
    – Attention or behavioral difficulties
    – Academic performance

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Signs of Hearing Loss

The signs of hearing loss can be subtle and emerge slowly, or they can be significant and come on suddenly. Either way, there are common indications. You should suspect hearing loss if you experience any of the signs below.

You might have hearing loss if you…

SOCIALLY

  • Require frequent repetition
  • Have difficulty following conversations involving more than 2 people
  • Think that other people sound muffled or like they’re mumbling
  • Have difficulty hearing in noisy situations, like conferences, restaurants, malls, or crowded meeting rooms
  • Have trouble hearing children and women
  • Have your TV or radio turned up to a high volume
  • Answer or respond inappropriately in conversations
  • Have ringing in your ears
  • Read lips or more intently watch people’s faces when they speak with you

EMOTIONALLY

  • Feel stressed out form straining to hear what others are saying
  • Feel annoyed at other people because you can’t hear or understand them
  • Feel embarrassed to meet new people or from misunderstanding what others are saying
  • Feel nervous about trying to hear and understand
  • Withdraw from social situations that you once enjoyed because of difficulty hearing

MEDICALLY

  • Have a family history of hearing loss
  • Take medications that can harm the hearing system (ototoxic drugs)
  • Have diabetes, heart, circulation or thyroid problems
  • Have been exposed to very loud sounds over a long period or single exposure to explosive sound

How do I know if I need my hearing evaluated?

  • Do you often feel like people are mumbling?
  • Do you have difficulty talking on the phone or listening to the TV or radio?
  • Do you complain that you hear people, but you don’t understand what they are saying?
  • Do others complain that you have a hearing problem?
  • Do you have trouble understanding conversation if there is background noise?
  • Do you frequently need to ask other people to repeat what they have said to you?
  • Do you avoid social activities where you need to hear well?
  • Do you have ringing in your ears?
  • Do you have a history of ear infections?
  • Do you experience dizziness?
  • Do you have a family history of hearing loss?
  • Do you have any history of exposure to loud noise?

If you answered YES to any of the questions above, you should consider undergoing a complete hearing evaluation. In addition, both children and adults are encouraged to have hearing tests every two to three years to help detect hearing loss. Annual hearing checkups are recommended for those who are exposed to potentially damaging loud noises such as farmers, hunters, machinists, musicians, airline workers, and carpenters.

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Types of Hearing Loss

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss is caused by any condition or disease that blocks or impedes the conveyance of sound through the outer and middle ear. The result is a reduction in the sound intensity (loudness) that reaches the inner ear. Generally, the cause of conductive hearing loss can be treated with a complete or partial improvement in hearing.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss results from inner ear or auditory nerve dysfunction. Often, the cause cannot be determined. It is typically irreversible and permanent. It, too, reduces the intensity of sound, but it might also result in a lack of clarity even when sounds, particularly speech, are loud enough. The treatment for sensorineural hearing loss is amplification through hearing aids.

Mixed Hearing Loss

A mixed hearing loss is a combination of a conductive and a sensorineural hearing loss. Hearing aids can be beneficial for people with a mixed hearing loss, but caution should be exercised.

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Tinnitus “Ringing in the Ears”

Tinnitus is the perception of sounds – often described as ringing, buzzing, humming, roaring, or whistling – that are not present in the external environment. Your Guide to Tinnitus “Ringing in the Ear” (PDF)

Hearing Loss Treatment

  • The vast majority of Americans (95%) with hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids. Only 5% of hearing loss in adults can be improved through medical or surgical treatment.
  • Modern directional hearing aids help improve hearing in noisy situations.
  • Amplified telephones are now available to help people with hearing loss. Auditory assistive listening devices when combined with hearing aids are much like binoculars for the ear.
  • Most public places (i.e. movie, place of worship, government building, schools) are required under the American with Disabilities Act to provide assistive listening devices for the hard-of-hearing.
  • Nearly 100% of hearing aids are digital.
  • Telecoils in hearing aids improve the ability to hear in public places and on the telephone.
  • Most people with hearing loss in both ears should wear two hearing aids, as the brain is meant to work with information coming from both sides of the body.
  • One of the key determinants of success with hearing aids is REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS.
  • Treatment of hearing loss with hearing aids is associated with greater earning power.
  • Individuals using hearing aids often report better health than hard-of-hearing people who do not use hearing aids.
  • 9 out of 10 hearing aid users report improvements in their quality of life.
  • Treatment of hearing loss improves interpersonal relationships and improved social lives.
  • The use of hearing aids is associated with reductions in anger, frustration, paranoia, anxiety and overall improvements in emotional stability.
  • Customer satisfaction with directional hearing aids is 81%.
  • Consumers report a 92% satisfaction with hearing healthcare professionals.
  • One of the best ways to get a loved one to seek help for their hearing loss is to stop being their hearing helper!
  • Only 13% of physicians screen for hearing loss. Ask your doctor for a hearing screening since it is not a routine part of physical exams.

The Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss

Studies have linked untreated hearing loss to:

  • Irritability, negativism and anger
  • Fatigue, tension, stress and depression
  • Avoidance or withdrawal from social situations
  • Social rejection and loneliness
  • Reduced alertness and increased risk to personal safety
  • Impaired memory and ability to learn new tasks
  • Reduced job performance and earning power
  • Diminished psychological and overall health

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Hearing Loss Prevention

Noise is one of the most common causes of hearing loss, and one of the most common occupational illnesses in the United States. A single shot from a shotgun, experienced at close range, may permanently damage your hearing in an instant. Repeated exposures to loud machinery may, over an extended period of time, present serious risks to human hearing.

  • 10 million Americans have already suffered irreversible hearing damage from noise.
  • 30 million are exposed to dangerous noise levels each day.
  • The effects of noise on hearing are often underestimated because the damage takes place so gradually.

Excessive noise damages the delicate hair cells in the inner ear. This damage results in sensorineural hearing loss and often tinnitus (ringing in the ears). Dangerous levels of noise can come from working in noisy occupations or in engaging in dangerous recreational activities:

  • Beware of dangerous recreational activities: video arcades, fireworks, music concerts, movie theaters, sporting events, motorcycles, snowmobiles, shooting a gun or using power tools.
  • Occupations particularly under risk for hearing loss due to exposure to noise are as follows: firefighter, police officers, factory workers, farmers, construction workers, military personnel, heavy industry workers, musicians, and entertainment industry professionals.

Prevention: Still the Best Cure

Hearing can be protected from additional damage due to loud noise exposure by following the H.E.A.R. strategy:

Hold Yourself Accountable: It’s all about education and action, and like most preventive health measures, you are in the best position to ensure that you practice behaviors that support healthy hearing for yourself and your family.

Evaluate Your Surroundings: In general, if you are standing three feet away from someone and cannot hear what they are saying, the noise level could be damaging to your hearing. Noise can damage hearing with long-term exposure to sound levels at or about 85 dBA SPL.

Avoid the Noise: The easiest way to avoid noise-induced hearing loss is to avoid the noise! Turn down the volume on your stereo or mp3 player, and whenever possible move away from the sources of loud noise to diffuse the overall sound intensity and thereby reducing the likelihood of damage to your inner ear.

Remember Protection: If you are not able to avoid excessive noise, muffle it! Earplugs decrease the intensity of the sound traveling to your ear drum and should be worn at all times while working near power tools, firearms, heaving machinery etc.

Source: NIDCD, Academy of Doctors of Audiology
For more information visit www.audiologist.org

Source: The Better Hearing Institute
For more information visit www.betterhearing.org

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