Hearing loss occurs gradually with age, commonly called presbycusis, it is a natural part of growing up. Aging and daily exposure to piercing and loud noises both contribute to faster hearing loss. Other factors like excessive earwax, can temporarily diminish how clear the sounds your ear can pick up. You can’t reverse most types of hearing loss. However, you can initiate steps to improve your hearing with a consultation with your doctor or hearing specialist.
Hearing loss can be characterized to 3 types:
- Sensorineural, involving the inner ear
- Conductive, involves the middle or outer ear
- Mixed, is a combination of the two previous types
It’s important to pay attention to the signs of hearing loss. People with untreated hearing loss are more likely to be depressed, annoyed, and have memory problems later in life.
Signs and symptoms of hearing loss may include:
- Muffling of speech and other sounds
- Difficulty understanding words in a crowd or a lot of background noise
- Trouble hearing consonants
- Always asking others to speak louder and clearer
- Hearing less of sounds
Understanding how hearing loss occurs, we need to first understand how you hear. Below is how hearing generally works.
Your ear comprises of three major areas. The outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. Sound waves first pass through the outer ear and cause vibrations at the eardrum to detect sound. The eardrum and three small bones of the middle ear amplify these vibrations as they travel further to the inner ear. Finally, the vibrations pass through fluid in a snail-shaped structure in the inner ear (cochlea).
How hearing loss can occur:
- Aging and long exposure to loud noise produces the wear and tear on the hairs or nerve cells in the cochlea that send sound signals to the brain. Electrical signals aren’t transmitted smoothly when these hairs or nerve cells are damaged or missing which results in hearing loss.
- Gradual buildup of earwax is a common. Earwax can block the ear canal and prevent clear transmission of sound waves.
- Ear infection and abnormal bone growths or tumors is more severe.
- Ruptured eardrum or tympanic membrane perforation. This can be the cause of prolonged exposure to noise, sudden changes in pressure, poking your eardrum with a sharp object and infection can cause your eardrum to rupture.
Factors damage or lead to loss of the sensitive hairs and nerve cells in your inner ear include but are not limited to:
- Aging is an unmovable factor. Degeneration of inner ear structures occurs over time naturally.
- Heredity and history. Sometimes genetic makeup may make you more vulnerable to ear damage from loud sounds or aging.
- Drugs such as the antibiotic gentamicin, sildenafil (Viagra) and certain chemotherapy drugs, can damage the inner ear as side effects. Temporary effects on your hearing can occur if you take more than normal doses of aspirin, other pain relievers, loop diuretics or antimalarial drugs.
- Diseases or illnesses that result in high fever like meningitis, may damage the cochlea.
Dr. Kanwar Kelley is located at Orinda California and if you are suffering from hearing loss, don’t hesitate to make an appointment (925) 254-6710. He is an experienced physician in many illnesses who can guide your health in the right direction.