Hearing Loss Overview


Hearing Loss Overview


Hearing loss is defined as “a partial or total inability to hear” and is the third most common medical condition in the US, after arthritis and heart disease.

It is estimated that 60% of the workforce experiences some degree of hearing loss. Although hearing loss is quite common among older Americans, it is reported that it takes a person an average of seven years from the time they experience early signs of hearing loss until they take a hearing test and seek treatment.

In the United States, an estimated 48 million Americans (20%) experience some degree of hearing loss. Approximately one in three older Americans (ages 65 and over) experience hearing loss, while for school-aged children, the statistic is 30 out of every 1000.

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Consequences of Untreated Hearing Loss

Untreated hearing loss often time leads to greater health implications. People with untreated hearing loss are at higher risk for depression, and higher levels of stress and anxiety. With hearing loss, challenges include difficulty hearing and recognizing speech, which leads to people withdrawing socially and feeling isolated. Over time, this could take a toll on one’s emotional well-being.

Studies have found potential links between untreated hearing loss and dementia;

when the brain struggles to hear and attempts to fill in gaps of sound, a cognitive load may occur which increases the risk for dementia. Untreated hearing loss has also been linked to a higher rate of falls and hospitalizations, as well as lower earning power in the workplace.

Types, Degrees, and Configurations of Hearing Loss

There are three types of hearing loss: Conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss.

Hearing loss ranges in degrees of severity, from slight to profound.

People with mild hearing loss might not be able to hear a whisper, while those who suffer from moderate to severe hearing loss will struggle to hear a conversation in a busy space, a TV set at high volume, or a doorbell. Profound hearing loss prevents people from hearing most musical instruments, and the shout of a human voice, to name a few.

The configuration of hearing loss refers to the different frequencies and tones one is able to hear. It also describes whether the hearing loss occurs in one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral). Symmetrical hearing loss means the degree and configuration are the same in both ears, while asymmetrical means they are different depending on the ear.

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Causes of Hearing Loss

There is no single cause of hearing loss. The two most common causes of hearing loss are age and exposure to loud sounds.

Age-related hearing loss, otherwise known as presbycusis,

occurs naturally as we get older. It is believed that certain cells in our inner ear, responsible for the amplification and transmission of sound waves as signals to the brain, naturally die and cease to function. Since they do not regenerate, this leads to sensorineural hearing loss.

Exposure to loud sounds throughout our lives could gradually lead to noise-induced hearing loss.

Exposure to a one-time loud event (such as a gunshot, explosion, or fireworks) could also lead to permanent hearing loss.

Other causes of hearing loss include certain diseases such as:

  • Otosclerosis (a defect with middle ear bones)
  • Meniere’s disease (a disorder of the inner ear, also related to tinnitus and vertigo)
  • Head trauma
  • Perforated eardrums
  • Ear infections (otitis media – infection of the inner ear)
  • Benign tumors
  • Impacted earwax.

    Certain classes of medication that are ototoxic (poisonous to the ear) could lead to hearing loss; if you are experiencing side effects, contact your primary doctor about your hearing.

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    Hidden Hearing Loss

    Hidden hearing loss can be elusive because of how hearing abilities are tested.

    In a comprehensive hearing test, your hearing abilities are accurately tested and often if a hearing loss is present, it is easy to identify. With a standard hearing test you are in a quiet, soundproof room, wearing headphones to hear sound signals. If you struggle to hear under these conditions, your audiologist will identify a hearing loss.

    In these soundproof situations, a hidden hearing loss does not interfere with your ability to pick up sound.

    Contrast this to situations in which a hidden hearing loss would actually prove difficult: noisy restaurants, outdoor settings with wind interference, driving in a car, sitting in the middle of cross-conversations with multiple speakers, and so on. It’s no surprise that people with hidden hearing loss can hear in quiet places, but not noisy ones. This is why identifying a hidden hearing loss proves difficult – a hidden hearing loss only appears in conditions that are difficult to measure.

    In addition to basic hearing tests, the following assessments may help us determine whether a hidden hearing loss is present:

    • Otoacoustic emissions (OAE): a test that measures the sounds the ear produces in response to soft sounds. 
    • Tympanometry: a test that measures the movement of the eardrum in response to changes in air pressure.
    • QuickSIN: a test that measures the ability to hear in noise.
    • Extended high frequency test: Testing frequencies above 8000 Hz, which is typical cut off of conventional audiogram.
    • Acoustic Reflex measures: measurement of middle ear muscles reaction to sounds
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    Hearing Loss Treatment

    Everyone hears differently, and there are many different factors that contribute to hearing loss. If you are experiencing changes in your hearing, the first step is to schedule a hearing test and consultation with us at Cadenza Audiology. Hearing loss is treatable through the prescription of hearing aids. Depending on the degree and configuration, we will find the best solution to meet your specific hearing needs.
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    Hear Freely. Laugh Heartily. Live Fully.

    Hearing | Tinnitus | Pediatrics

    Our mission at Cadenza Audiology is to affirm the value and dignity of each person by supporting and enhancing the individual’s ability to communicate, to connect with loved ones, and to enjoy life to its fullest. We believe in applying the latest research and technology to empower each unique individual.
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