Hearing Loss: Types, Causes, and Treatments

Hearing problems are very common as one approaches old age. Reports say that nearly 50% of all people over 75 suffer from some type of hearing impairment. Despite the high recorded cases, however, very few senior patients opt to undergo the proper hearing loss treatment. In fact, only 22% of seniors past 80 have ever even used any type of hearing aid.

The lack of urgency in getting hearing treatment stems from the fact that not many people understand the importance of a regular ear or auditory hearing test/checkup. Mild hearing impairment is a normal sign of aging. However, that does not mean patients can completely forego getting the necessary treatment.

Types of Hearing Loss

The three different types of hearing loss complications include sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss. They vary in severity, causes, and treatments required.

Mixed Hearing Loss (Outer/Middle Ear and Inner Ear Damage)

Mixed hearing loss occurs when both the outer or middle ear and inner ear are damaged at the same time. Think of it as a mix of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. This disease prevents sounds from passing from the outer to the inner ear while blocking the nerve pathway to the brain.

The most common causes of mixed hearing loss include:

  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Inner ear disease
  • Fluid buildup caused by respiratory disease or infection

Conductive Hearing Loss (Middle Ear Damage)

Conductive hearing loss is the result of damages in the middle ear. This complication prevents sound waves from traveling past the outer ear or middle ear. As a result, people suffering from conductive hearing loss may have trouble understanding soft sounds, while loud noise may appear muffled.

The most common causes of conductive hearing loss include:

  • Fluid buildup in the middle ear due to a nose and throat disease/infection
  • Deformed ear canal with bones blocking the middle ear
  • A foreign object such as a small pebble or toy lodged in the outer or middle ear

Sensorineural Hearing Loss (Outer Ear Damage)

Sensorineural hearing loss stems from damages in the inner ear. This complication prevents the inner ear from sending signals to the brain via the auditory nerve pathway.

The most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss include:

  • Severe head trauma
  • Bone deformity in the ear canal extending to the inner ear
  • Old age
  • Use of ototoxic medication

Causes of Hearing Loss

Understanding what situations, abnormalities, or defects can cause hearing loss is essential to hearing care. Patients need to know what to steer clear from. Deafness can be the result of a wide range of causes, these include:

  • Severe head trauma
  • Long-term exposure to blaring noise and explosions
  • Complications such as tinnitus or ear infections
  • Old age
  • Diseases that affect one's hearing such as diabetes, meningitis, and shingles
  • Use of ototoxic drugs (NSAIDs, aminoglycosides, and cancer medication)
  • Viral respiratory diseases

Hearing Loss Treatments

There are several ways to restore a patient's hearing. The required treatment or operation heavily depends on the severity of the auditory complication. The most common options include:

Using Hearing Aids

Perhaps the most common solution to restoring auditory issues is to use a hearing aid. These are small devices that help patients understand different sounds by picking up the sound waves and converting them digitally into signals the nerve pathway can easily send.

Hearing aids come in different shapes and sizes. They vary from small, discreet ITC devices that stay hidden inside the ear canal to larger pieces ideal for patients suffering from dexterity issues such as arthritis.

Removing Ear Wax

This is a fairly simple operation that removes any puss, infection, or wax blocking sounds from passing through the ear canal.

Having a Surgical Operation

Patients with abnormal ossicles can consider having deformities surgically removed. In most cases, patients with the aforementioned types of abnormalities won't benefit from hearing aids.

Installing Cochlear Implants

If hearing aids no longer help you detect sounds and there's no deformity in your ear, you might have to consider getting a cochlear implant. This is a major operation where a licensed surgeon inserts an artificial hollow tube called a cochlear into your inner ear.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best treatment for hearing loss?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to addressing hearing loss. If your hearing loss is caused by a foreign object lodged in one part of the ear, then the said object will have to be removed. Meanwhile, people with age-related hearing loss may have to resort to hearing aids and instruments.

How can I restore my hearing naturally?

Regularly exercising your ear/ears is a solid way to naturally improve your hearing without relying on surgery or hearing aids. To get started, try speech sounds exercises. Have a partner read phrases from an unfamiliar source (article, magazine, or book) and repeat them. The goal is to be able to repeat the phrases said out loud without having your partner repeat specific words or phrases.

Also, avoid exposure to loud noise. The auditory nerve system is very sensitive, especially among older adults, and listening to different loud sounds blaring through speakers, earphones, or heavy machinery may cause deafness.

Additional Resources

Seniors With Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is very common among seniors. In fact, studies show that one in three people aged 65 to 74 suffers from some type of hearing loss complication.

Overall, early treatment is the key to avoiding long-term deafness, profound hearing loss, or even permanent hearing loss. So don't be afraid to consult audiologists. Only a licensed doctor that specializes in hearing loss can properly diagnose your existing condition and prescribe the necessary therapy.

Also, take care of your ears. Aging is not something you can reverse, but you can steer clear of other causes of hearing loss. Avoid long-term exposure to loud sounds, address ear infections right away, get treated for diseases such as diabetes that are known to impair one's hearing, and try not to get into an accident that results in some type of hearing loss.

There's more life as an aging adult than just finding a good hearing solution. Visit Senior Strong for more tips on how to maintain your quality of life and stay healthy as you approach old age.

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