Approximately 48 million Americans report some degree of hearing loss. One in six baby boomers (41-59), One in fourteen Gen-X'ers (29-40), and 1.4 million children (under 18) have hearing loss.

Almost anyone that is having trouble with communication due to hearing loss is a candidate for hearing instrument. In some cases, there are certain hearing losses that can be medically treated without amplification. This is usually the exception and not the rule. There are usually warning signs of possible hearing loss.

There are many causes that can accumulate over our lifetimes. Some of the most common ones include:

  • Extended exposure to loud noise (military, hunting, music, industrial, power saws, lawn mowers)
  • Heredity
  • Certain chemotherapy and radiation treatments
  • Certain antibiotics
  • Head trauma
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Earwax buildup
  • Ear infections
  • Viral infections

Yes. We all know that hearing loss makes it more difficult to understand speech. What is not sufficiently appreciated is that a patient’s emotional and mental state may also be affected by disrupted communication patterns caused by hearing loss. A patient with hearing loss is four times as likely to manifest psychological disturbances as a person with normal hearing. There is also evidence that hearing loss can exacerbate the behavioral picture of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders. Memory, alertness, and coping ability may suffer.

There are three types of hearing loss:

  1. Conductive Hearing Loss: Results from a problem with the conduction of sound from the outer ear (the part you can see) to the inner ear (where the nerve is located). This can result from wax buildup, ear infections, trauma to the ear or other problem with the eardrum or bones that conduct sound through the middle ear. Those with this type of loss have a problem of insufficient loudness rather than clarity of hearing.
  2. Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Involves deterioration of the inner ear or the hearing nerve. The aging process, noise-exposure, some cancer treatments, illness, and other degenerative processes can cause this loss. This type of hearing loss often impairs understanding ability.
  3. Mixed Hearing Loss: Occurs when there are problems in both the inner ear and outer or middle ear. It’s a combination of a conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

Everyone’s hearing is unique, so everyone experiences hearing loss in different ways. Here are some of the common symptoms:

  • You often miss certain words or find yourself confusing words or misunderstanding conversations.
  • You frequently ask the speaker to repeat what was said.
  • Your family members or friends have expressed concern about your hearing.
  • You avoid certain social situations (the theater, restaurants, parties) because it’s difficult to hear.
  • You have difficulty understanding telephone conversations.
  • You turn up the volume on the radio or television to levels that are too loud for others.
  • You have difficulty following conversations in groups or in background noise.
  • You have difficulty hearing outdoor sounds such as birds or the wind.

Earwax, also called “cerumen”, is an oily substance your body creates to protect your ear canal. Many people are concerned they produce too much earwax, but there’s generally no cause for concern. It’s possible for earwax to build up and partially or completely obstruct the ear canal. This can result in a mild to moderate hearing loss. Once the wax is removed the hearing is restored. Our professionals can let you know if you have a wax buildup and how it can be removed.

This is called “tinnitus”. It’s usually an indication of some damage to your auditory system (especially noise damage). It can be constant or periodic and on one side or in the middle of your head.

You could have a high-frequency hearing loss. This is when you can hear well in one-on-one situations and in small groups, but when you are in larger groups with lots of distracting speech and noise, you hear the noise louder than the speech.

In general, female and children’s voices tend to be higher pitched than men’s voices. The high pitches (frequencies) are most often the first sounds to deteriorate with progressive hearing loss.

Generally, the first sounds to not be heard are ‘high-pitched tones’ such as consonant sounds like C-S-F-Z. At the same time, low frequency noises (appliances, traffic) seem to becoming louder and more annoying. Hearing amid noise begins to be a problem. If a conversation is going on in traffic or if several people are talking at once, trying to understand is very difficult.

Here’s an easy test that looks at everyday situations where early signs of hearing loss may be evident:

  1. Do you miss some of the dialogue while watching TV?
  2. Do you fail to catch all the words spoken by a woman or child?
  3. Do you not understand a conversation when there’s background noise?
  4. Do you have difficulty understanding when several people are talking at once?
  5. Do you have difficulty understanding on the telephone?
  6. Do you sometimes not hear the doorbell or telephone ringing?
  7. Do some noises bother you (dishes, cups, motors, appliances)?
  8. Do you find music to be less enjoyable?

If you answered ‘yes’ at least once, it’s a good idea to have your hearing checked.

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