People of all ages can have hearing loss, which is more prevalent than you might realize. Hearing loss is the third most prevalent health issue in the world, according to the research. Untreated hearing loss can have a detrimental influence on your social and emotional wellbeing as well as your capacity to understand speech. People who have hearing loss frequently complain that their quality of life has decreased.

A woman receives an ear exam during a hearing test.

What causes hearing loss?

Hearing loss is brought on by a variety of factors. You cannot prevent some causes, while you might be able to prevent others. As well as being hereditary, hearing loss can also be made worse by environmental factors including loud exposure. Several causes are:

  • Hearing loss in adults due to ageing (presbycusis)
  • Being exposed to loud noises, including briefly hearing extremely loud noises like explosions
  • Injury to the inner ear or tympanic membrane (eardrum) as a result of contact with a foreign object (cotton swabs, bobby pins, etc.)
  • The auditory nerve has been harmed.
  • Various medications
  • Illnesses, including Meniere’s disease (ototoxic drugs)

Hearing loss symptoms

Sensorineural hearing loss signs and symptoms can appear at any moment and in a variety of ways. Regardless of the origin, symptoms are typically the same. Both ears may be affected, which is referred to as bilateral hearing loss. The majority of people with hearing loss experience a gradual onset later in life. The onset of hearing loss in one ear typically occurs earlier in life and might be sudden.

Below are a few signs that you might have hearing loss:

• In noisy settings like eateries, shopping malls, athletic events, or movie theatres, you have trouble hearing people.

• You notice that people commonly “mumble.”

• You have trouble understanding individuals on the phone.

• When communicating with you, family, friends, or coworkers need to repeat themselves.

• When you can’t see someone’s face or they’re in another room, you have problems hearing them.

• You have trouble keeping up with talks.

• Tinnitus, sometimes known as ringing, buzzing, or hissing in the ears, is a problem for you.

• After attending social or professional gatherings, you feel worn out.

• Due to communication issues, you avoid social situations.

• You have interpreted spoken instructions or signals incorrectly.

Hearing loss types

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss, the first and most prevalent form of hearing loss, results from damage to the microscopic hair cells of the cochlea, the inner ear. The auditory nerves carry the sound wave information that these hair cells pick up to the brain. Noise and ageing are the most common causes of hair cell destruction. Most of the time, individuals have trouble hearing higher-pitched sounds like children’s voices or the singing of birds. High-frequency hearing loss often progresses gradually over time, making it challenging to detect. People frequently remark that they can hear but cannot understand.

Loss of hearing in conductivity

Conduction hearing loss, the second most typical type of hearing loss, is brought on by an issue in the outer or middle ear that stops sound waves from correctly entering the ear canal and inner ear. This is frequently brought on by an impediment, like earwax.

Mixed loss of hearing

Mixed hearing loss is the third most typical type of hearing loss. Both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss are factors in this particular form of hearing loss. Be sure to follow up with your doctor, otolaryngologist (ENT), or hearing care specialist as combined hearing loss can be harder to identify and cure. Depending on whether a hearing loss is more sensorineural or conductive in nature, there are different treatment methods available.

Degrees of hearing loss

A woman in a conference room struggles to hear a person speaking.

It might be challenging to follow conversations and meetings at work if hearing loss is untreated.

It might make you tired of listening.

To describe the severity of hearing loss, hearing care specialists use the phrases normal, mild, moderate, severe, and profound. Decibels (dB), which relate to the lowest threshold a person can hear, are used to measure hearing loss.

• In peaceful and comfortable listening environments, people with normal hearing (hearing threshold levels of roughly 0-20 dB) may hear the majority of speech sounds. In addition, they can hear birds chirping and leaves rustling.

• Individuals with modest hearing loss (between 21 and 40 dB) may be able to hear relatively well while speaking one-on-one, but they may miss words and speech sounds when the speaker is speaking softly or when there is background noise.

• Many speech sounds will be missed by people with mild hearing loss (between 41 and 70 dB). They might ask others to repeat themselves or mishear certain passages of a conversation.

• Using normal telephones will be exceedingly challenging for people with significant hearing loss (between 71 and 90 dB), who will miss the majority of conversational speech.

• Speech sounds, even when they are quite loud, are inaudible to people with significant hearing loss (91 dB or more).

Why is it important to treat Hearing Loss?

Untreated hearing loss makes it challenging to understand conversations and frequently results in less contact with friends, family, and coworkers, which can further contribute to feelings of loneliness and melancholy. Your health and quality of life depend on your ability to hear. Untreated hearing loss frequently results in a decline in a person’s quality of life. Hearing aids, on the other hand, have health advantages, such as slowing the onset of dementia.

Hearing loss treatments

A woman with a beige hearing aid.

The most common course of treatment is hearing aids. Cochlear implants and bone-anchored hearing systems, however, might be more effective for those with more severe hearing loss. Learn more about hearing aids and how to treat hearing loss. Hearing aids are designed specifically to meet your unique hearing loss, amplifying the sounds you have been missing.

Is it possible to stop hearing loss?

Frequently, sure! You can safeguard your hearing by wearing hearing protection when you’re in a noisy setting. Preventing hearing loss also entails adopting healthy behaviours like quitting smoking and taking medications for health issues, particularly those that alter blood flow, including diabetes and high blood pressure. Reduced blood flow to the ears can cause sensorineural hearing loss, which is particularly prevalent in patients with diabetes and uncontrolled hypertension.

What is hearing loss brought on by noise?

Your inner ear’s hair cells can become damaged, which leads to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Tiny sensory cells called hair cells transform the sound energy we hear into electrical signals that are sent to the brain. These hair cells cannot regenerate after being injured, which results in irreversible hearing loss.

The following are just a few examples of harmful noises that can harm your hearing:

  • A loud, unexpected noise, such as an explosion
  • Harmful sounds at work, at home, and during leisure activities. 
  • Constant exposure to loud sounds over an extended length of time, such as sitting too near to a speaker at a concert.
  • If you work in a noisy setting, discuss the danger of noise exposure with the health and safety staff.