Hearing Loss Overview
Hearing loss affects many Canadians each year therefore it is important to have your hearing tested regularly – just like you would book a dentist, optometrist or doctor’s appointment.
Generally, hearing loss develops gradually over many years. This condition can occur so slowly, and the changes be so subtle, that it can be hard to detect. There are many forms of hearing loss and other conditions that your hearing care professional can help identify. Most of the conditions listed below can either be treated through medical intervention, the appropriate amplification device or with other preventive and rehabilitative counselling.
PRESBYCUSIS – Age related hearing loss
Hearing loss that develops with age is known as presbycusis. The hearing loss is usually sensorineural meaning the damage is due to problems in the inner ear, the actual organ of hearing. This type of loss often becomes a problem when a person reaches their sixties or seventies. Gradually and progressively tends to get worse as the person gets older. This form of loss often creates a problem hearing and understanding speech, so many people with presbycusis turn to hearing aids as the best solution to their problem.
NOISE-INDUCED HEARING LOSS
Just as it sounds, noise-induced hearing loss is caused by too much exposure to loud sounds. The amount of hearing loss depends on how loud the sound or noise is (intensity) and how long (time) you are exposed to it. In general, the louder the noise and the longer the time you are exposed to it, the greater the resulting hearing loss. If you are exposed once or twice or for just a short period and the loudness level isn’t too high, the loss may be temporary and your hearing will usually recover overnight. However, if you continue to be exposed to too much noise, day after day, like a factory worker not wearing hearing protection, you can develop a permanent hearing loss from noise exposure. If you work in a noisy environment, be safe and wear hearing protection.
A medical condition that includes sensorineural hearing loss associated with dizziness and ringing in the ears (tinnitus). Often with Meniere’s disease, the hearing loss fluctuates up and down. The most troublesome part of Meniere’s disease is the dizziness and ringing in the ears (tinnitus) that occur at the same time as the hearing loss. The dizziness can be very severe and may last for several hours. If you have this type of problem, you should discuss it with your family physician who will likely refer you to an Ear, Nose and Throat Specialist or Otolaryngologist.
OTITIS MEDIA – Ear infection
These problems are very common in children but also occur in adults and can cause conductive hearing loss. Often the problem begins with a build-up of a negative air pressure in the middle ear space behind the eardrum. If left untreated, the problem can progress to the build-up of fluid behind the eardrum. A negative air pressure can result in a slight to mild hearing loss, but a fluid filled middle ear can give a moderate hearing loss or more. If this problem remains untreated, it could result in a significant hearing loss. This fluid filled ear is also a perfect place for bacteria to grow. If the fluid becomes infected, it can be a painful experience. Middle ear infections should receive medical attention. A hearing evaluation is sometimes the only way to identify the negative air pressure or fluid filled middle ear stages of Otitis Media. The conductive hearing loss caused by fluid filled middle ears can lead to delays in speech and language development and problems in educational performance for younger children. If you are concerned that your child may have Otitis Media in one or both ears, you should see an Audiologist for a comprehensive hearing evaluation.
IMPACTED CERUMEN – Impacted ear wax
Earwax, known as cerumen, is a normal part of a healthy ear canal. Usually the wax works its way out and is disposed of naturally. Some people have very narrow ear canals, stiff bristles of hair growth in the canals or just produce more wax than average. Sometimes this can build up and become impacted in the outer ear canal causing a conductive hearing loss. Your Audiologist or family physician can remove the cerumen. After the large accumulation is removed the remainder will usually wash out easily. Ask about our ear wax removal kits to dissolve and flush this extra wax from your ear canals easily at home.
CONGENITAL HEARING LOSS – Born with a hearing loss
Congenital means that you were born with the hearing loss. Sometimes the cause of the loss is known, but almost one third of congenital hearing loss is from unknown causes. Early detection of the loss is very important to avoid complications with speech and language development and performance in school. Hearing evaluation is possible and recommended for newborns, infants and very young children who are suspected of hearing problems.
DIZZINESS OR VERTIGO
The balance mechanism and the hearing mechanism are both parts of the inner ear. Problems in the balance mechanism or vestibular system cause dizziness and Vertigo. There are many causes of dizziness. Dizziness should be evaluated by your family physician and an Audiologist or Otolaryngologist.
Sounds generated in the ear, including: ringing, hissing, chirping, roaring, or buzzing in the ear.
Ear and head noises, known as tinnitus, are probably the most common complaint presented to hearing health professionals. The word tinnitus comes from the Latin tinnire meaning to jingle and may be experienced as any of a variety of sounds including ringing, hissing, chirping, roaring, buzzing, or some other similar description. The Tinnitus Association of Canada estimates that more than 360,000 Canadians experience some form of tinnitus, but for most of these the tinnitus is only on rare and brief occasions at a low intensity. Of these people, about 150,000 have a more severe tinnitus that can be quite disruptive within their lives. The good news is that the old advice that there is nothing that can be done for the tinnitus is no longer true. While it often cannot be cured, much can be done to significantly decrease the annoyance of tinnitus. If you experience tinnitus, you should see an Audiologist for a comprehensive hearing evaluation to determine the cause of your tinnitus and treatment options.
A condition where the bones in ear begin to “ossify” such that they no longer work to stimulate the inner ear.
One form of conductive hearing loss that affects the “conduction” of sounds through the middle ear is known as otosclerosis. The middle ear is the eardrum and three little bones attached to it. In some cases, the bones begin to harden or “ossify” into the opening leading into the inner ear. The more solid the bones ossify or harden across this window, the more conductive hearing loss the person suffers. Otosclerosis often leads to significant conductive hearing loss and surgery is often required to reduce or eliminate it. If the person chooses not to have surgery or if surgery is only partially successful, hearing aids can almost completely correct the hearing loss from otosclerosis.