Are you still hearing everything life has to offer?
Hearing loss is a natural part of getting older. Already at age 20, we've lost the ability to perceive some of the sounds infants can hear. By the time we reach 30 or 40, significant losses have begun to occur. Once we reach our 80s, more than half of us suffer from significant hearing loss.
With the added factor of increased noise levels and prolonged noise exposure everywhere, hearing impairment is becoming even more common at an earlier age. More than half of all people with hearing challenges today are still in the workforce. From hair dryers to leaf blowers, lawnmowers, snowmobiles, iPod®, freeway traffic, surround sound speakers and more, we constantly expose our ears to damaging levels of noise. And that's just at home. Our work environments are becoming increasingly louder as well. Some of the noisiest workplaces are those where firefighters, factory workers, farmers, teachers, construction workers and musicians spend a significant part of their day.
Understanding hearing loss
Hearing loss can be defined as the inability to hear speech and environmental sounds. It is a problem that can develop at any time. Most often, it is gradual and painless. You may not realize for several years that this problem is affecting you because it develops so slowly that at first it may be barely noticeable. Over time, hearing loss can lead to anxiety, depression, isolation, and loneliness. So by leaving hearing loss untreated, a physical condition may also become a psychological one. This is why it is so important to seek a solution promptly.
Recognizing the signs of hearing loss
Many of us don't notice the early signs of hearing loss because we slowly adjust to the change. By the time we realize what's happening, we may have already lost the full appreciation of sounds and music we once enjoyed.
There are different types of hearing loss that are experienced to various degrees and due to several causes. But the symptoms of hearing loss are basically the same. If you experience some of the following symptoms, take our online hearing quiz and/or book an appointment today to have your hearing tested.
- It sounds to you as though people are mumbling or speaking more softly than they used to.
- You are turning up the volume on the TV or radio above the level where others typically listen.
- You can hear people talk, but you have difficulty understanding the words.
- You frequently ask people to repeat themselves.
- You can't always hear the doorbell or telephone clearly.
- Family, colleagues and friends suggest you might have a hearing problem.
- It has become difficult to understand a speaker at a business meeting or service.
- It is especially difficult to hear women or children speak.
- You often hear a ringing or buzzing in your ears.
- You might notice a slight muffling of sound after noise exposure.
- It can be difficult to hear or understand people when you leave a noisy area.
Types of hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when the middle or outer ear is damaged or not functioning properly. Sound waves are blocked or cannot be conducted through the ear. Sometimes temporary, it often is possible to treat conductive hearing loss with surgery and/or medication.
Common causes of conductive hearing loss include:
- injury to the outer ear itself
- blockage in the ear with cerumen (ear wax) or other small objects like food, beads or insects
- ear infections
- fluid in the middle ear
- perforation of the eardrum
- congenital deformities
Sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss the most common type of hearing loss, has its origin in the inner ear or along the auditory nerve. Most commonly the damage occurs in the inner ear or cochlea. In this instance the hair cells in the cochlea are damaged and cannot properly convert and transmit sound signals to the brain.
Common causes of sensorineural hearing loss include:
- hereditary factors
- viral infections
- reactions to ototoxic drugs
- sudden or long term exposure to noise
- presbycusis (aging process)
The degree of hearing loss varies from person to person
Between the two extremes of hearing well and hearing nothing, there are many degrees of impairment. The terms used to describe the degree of hearing loss are mild, moderate, severe and profound.
- Mild hearing loss: Soft sounds are hard to hear. Understanding speech clearly in noisy environments may be challenging
- Moderate hearing loss: Soft and moderately loud sounds are hard to hear. It's often difficult to understand speech, especially when there's background noise.
- Severe hearing loss: Some loud sounds are audible, but communication without a hearing instrument is impossible
- Profound hearing loss: Some extremely loud sounds are audible. Communication without a hearing instrument is impossible.
Hearing loss doesn't only affect the one who has it…
Try out our hearing loss simulator to better understand what your family member, friend or colleague may be experiencing. This simulator enables you to listen to common sounds in a variety of environments, first with normal hearing and then with simulated levels of hearing loss.