Hearing loss is a widespread condition, affecting young and old alike. Often symptoms develop so gradually, you don’t realize you’re suffering from a hearing impairment until it’s reached an advanced stage. If you suspect a hearing loss may be affecting you or a loved one, ask yourself the following questions.
- Can I hear but not always understand?
- Do I have difficulty hearing in restaurants and/or places of worship?
- Do I frequently ask people to repeat themselves?
- Must I look at people’s faces to assist in understanding conversations?
- Do I frequently turn up the volume of the TV and /or radio to hear clearly?
- Does it seem like everyone mumbles or doesn’t speak clearly?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, please have your hearing tested by a healthcare professional.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are two major types of hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss affects the outer and/or middle ear, and can be caused by excess earwax, skin infections (e.g. “Swimmer’s ear”), deformities of the outer ear or ear canal, perforated eardrum, ear infections, and calcification or breakage of the bones in the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss can usually be treated with medication or surgery; when it cannot, hearing aids and assistive listening devices may be helpful.
Sensorineural hearing loss affects the inner ear, and is the most common type of impairment – 90% of hearing loss is sensorineural. Common causes include natural aging, heredity and genetics, noise exposure, birth defects, viruses and infections, and medications. Sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible and can’t be treated with drugs or surgery. However, in most cases, individuals can be helped significantly through the use of hearing aids or assistive listening devices.
Additionally, some people may suffer from mixed hearing loss, a combination of both conductive and sensorineural loss.
Degrees of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is measured in degrees ranging from mild to profound. The type of treatment a patient receives will depend upon the type and source of hearing loss. Medications and surgery may be helpful in some cases, while hearing aids or cochlear implants may benefit others. Degrees of hearing loss are categorized as follows.
Mild Hearing Loss
Difficulty understanding soft speech and some conversations, especially when background noise is a factor and in small to large groups of people. Minimal or no difficulty in quiet environments with one or two people.
Moderate Hearing Loss
Hearing of soft speech is limited, and conversational speech is difficult to understand, especially with background noise. Higher volume levels are required for hearing TV, radio and telephone.
Moderately-Severe Hearing Loss
Understanding of normal speech is significantly affected. Speech must be loud, and hearing in group conversations is significantly limited. Severe Hearing Loss. Normal conversational speech is not heard or understood. The listener may understand shouted or amplified speech.
Profound Hearing Loss
Unable to clearly understand even amplified speech. Very loud environmental sounds are barely heard.