Hearing Loss Overview

Hearing loss can occur when any component of the ear or auditory system ceases to function normally. The term ‘hearing loss’ can refer to either the partial or total inability to hear sound in one or both ears. Severity can vary from mild to total loss. Hearing loss can impact communication, social participation, and a person’s quality of life; in the elderly, it can increase the risk of Alzheimer’s unless treated (usually with hearing aids).

You may find yourself missing out on important moments and occasions with family and friends. Hearing what others are saying in crowded settings can be very challenging. Over time, hearing loss can leave you feeling isolated and depressed and may increase the risk of impaired memory and diminished cognitive function.

We understand and are here to help you regain your ability to hear.

Types of Hearing Loss

There are four types of hearing loss occur for a variety of reasons.

Conductive Hearing Loss

This form of hearing loss occurs when there is a problem conducting sound waves anywhere along the route through the outer ear, tympanic membrane (eardrum), or middle ear (ossicles).

Common causes include:

  • Ear infections
  • Fluid in the middle ear
  • Earwax buildup
  • Abnormalities in the ear structure can lead to conductive hearing loss
  • Swimmers ear
  • Ear tumors
  • Eustachian tube issues (abnormal pressure develops in the middle ear)
  • Ruptured ear drum
  • Foreign object obstructing the ear
  • Congenital conditions

Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL)

Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL) is the most common form of permanent hearing loss. SNHL occurs when there is damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or to the nerve pathways that run from the inner ear to the brain.

Common causes include:

  • Aging
  • Exposure to loud noise (can be sudden or occur over time/multiple exposures)
  • Genetics
  • Certain diseases such as coronary artery disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke
  • Blunt trauma to the head
  • Noise-induced hearing loss from prolonged long-term exposure to loud noises such as working in a noisy environment
  • Congenital infections like cytomegalovirus (CMV)

Mixed Hearing Loss

This type combines elements of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss and typically shows as damage to the outer or middle ear, as well as the inner ear or auditory nerve.

Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder (ANSD)

ANSD is a form of hearing loss where sound enters the inner ear normally but the transmission of signals from the inner ear to the brain is impaired. This can result in the sound being received but not properly understood.

Common causes include:

  • Damage to the inner hair cells – the nerve cells that are responsible for hearing.
  • Damage to the auditory nerve.
  • Genetic conditions
  • Lack of oxygen at birth (anoxia).
  • Certain infections contracted by the mother during pregnancy, such as rubella

Symptoms of Hearing Loss in Adults

In most cases, hearing loss occurs gradually and the sufferer might not even notice until it has advanced enough to impact everyday life, but the signs are typically:

  • Frequently asking individuals to repeat themselves in a conversation
  • Difficulty keeping up with a conversation – especially on the phone or in a noisy setting
  • Belief that others are not speaking clearly or are mumbling
  • Inability to hear high-pitched sounds
  • Need to turn up the volume on the television, radio, or computer
  • Ringing in the ears (a condition known as tinnitus)
  • Persistent pain in the ears
  • A feeling of fullness in the ears
  • Balance issues

Symptoms of Hearing Loss in Infants and Children

It is not uncommon for infants suffering hearing loss to appear to hear some sounds but not others.

Symptoms of hearing loss in young children include:

  • Failure to startle over loud noises
  • Not turning towards noises if older than six months
  • Not saying a single word such as ‘mama’ before one-year-old

Symptoms of hearing loss in older children:

  • Saying “what” or “huh” excessively
  • Slow to learn to speak compared to other children of comparable age
  • Unclear speech
  • Failing to follow directions
  • Frequently turning up the volume on computers, tablets, and televisions

Treatments for Hearing Loss

Sophisticated Hearing Devices

When you think of hearing aids, you might picture clunky, impractical, old-fashioned devices. Sophisticated hearing technology allows us to fit patients with modern hearing aids designed to match busy lifestyles.

Digital Hearing Aids: Convenient Modern Hearing Technology

Modern hearing aid technology and contemporary design combine to deliver an incredible level of quality hearing enhancement. Advanced smart hearing devices with state-of-the-art technology offer remarkable automatic features:

  • Realistic speech enhancement
  • Feedback and background noise reduction
  • Syncing with your smart phone

Don’t let hearing loss affect your quality of life. Our skilled and compassionate team of audiology professionals will evaluate your needs and diagnose the quality of your hearing to determine your treatment options. We work with all patients to select the best possible hearing enhancement device for each individual’s lifestyle.