WHAT IS OTOLARYNGOLOGY?
Types of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss occurs when one or more parts of the ear are temporarily or permanently damaged. There are three types of hearing loss, which are differentiated by the area of the ear where the damage has occurred. In order to effectively treat your hearing loss, your audiologist first must determine what type of hearing loss you have. This can be done through a series of hearing tests. The most common type of hearing loss affects the inner ear and is called sensorineural hearing loss. Conductive hearing loss is less common and is caused by damage to the outer or middle ear. Mixed hearing loss is the least common type of hearing loss in Akron residents and involves a combination of sensorineural and conductive damage.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear (specifically the hair cells of the cochlea), the auditory nerve or the brain’s processing center. Approximately 9 in 10 cases of hearing loss in Akron-area patients are caused by inner ear problems. Sensorineural hearing loss can be mild, moderate, severe or profound and is typically permanent. Most of the time, hearing aids are the best option for treating sensorineural damage. In some cases, however, amplification isn’t effective in treating patients with severe damage to the cochlea. In these circumstances, your audiologist may recommend cochlear implants. The most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss are loud noise exposure and the natural aging process.
Other, less common causes include:
- Viral infections
- Injury or trauma
- Hereditary factors
- Ototoxic medications
- Autoimmune disorders
- Certain diseases including Meniere’s
- Malformations of the inner ear
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss results from damage to the middle or outer ear and is often temporary. It can be caused by a variety of factors including fluid in the middle ear, middle or outer ear infections, allergies, impacted earwax, foreign objects in the ear, Eustachian tube problems, malformations of the outer or middle ear, swimmer’s ear, surfer’s ear and otosclerosis. Most cases of conductive hearing loss cause mild to moderate impairments. Conductive issues are typically treated with medication or nonsurgical procedures, though surgery is occasionally required.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is quite rare and occurs when a patient is suffering from both sensorineural and conductive issues at the same time. Treatment varies depending on the cause and severity of the hearing loss and may include medication, hearing aids, nonsurgical procedures or surgery
Causes of Hearing Loss:
Hearing loss is the third most common physical health problem in Canada.. Many patients assume that hearing loss is mainly a concern amongst older Canadians—but this fact is becoming less and less true each year. Today, more cases of hearing loss are caused by exposure to loud noise than aging or any other single factor. The good news is that by taking the time to understand the causes of hearing loss, you can also do more to prevent it from happening to you or your family.
The Most Common Causes of Hearing Loss
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) is becoming increasingly prevalent in Canada. and throughout the world. Today, experts estimate the about 15% of Americans have some level of hearing loss from noise exposure alone. NIHL is not age-related and can affect children, teens, adults and seniors equally.
Sounds exceeding 85 decibels (dB) are considered potentially dangerous for your ears. At 85 dB, exposure to a sound for about eight hours can cause permanent damage. For every five-decibel increase above 85, the exposure time is cut in half. For example, 90 dB noises can damage your ears in four hours, 100 dB noises can cause damage in just an hour and 120 dB sounds can damage your ears instantly. In order to protect against noise-induced hearing loss, Akron residents regularly exposed to loud noises should invest in quality custom earplugs.
Another common cause of hearing loss is the natural aging process. This type of sensorineural hearing loss is called presbycusis. It usually comes on gradually, causes high-frequency hearing loss, affects both ears equally and causes mild to severe impairments. It occurs as a result of natural changes in the inner ear over time potentially caused by several factors including cumulative daily noise exposure; your heredity; changes in the blood supply to the ear caused by heart disease, hypertension, vascular conditions and poor circulation; and side effects of ototoxic medications. An estimated 1 in 3 adults over 65 experience age-related hearing loss; that number jumps to nearly 1 in 2 by the age of 75.
Additional Causes of Hearing Loss
NIHL and presbycusis account for a vast majority of hearing loss in our patients, but there are plenty of other possible causes of hearing loss as well. Sensorineural, or inner ear, hearing loss can be caused by head trauma, viruses, disease, malformations of the inner ear, Meniere’s disease, otosclerosis, acoustic neuromas and more.
Conductive hearing loss, which relates to the middle or outer ear, can be caused by ear infections, colds, allergies, impacted earwax, foreign objects in the ear canal, perforated eardrums, poorly functioning Eustachian tubes and malformations of the outer ear or middle ear, including the ear canal.
Protecting your hearing:
Hearing loss can develop naturally, but in many cases it has a cause and is completely preventable. By understanding the causes of hearing loss, you can work to prevent it by taking simple, reasonable precautions. Learn more about protecting your hearing by reading through the information on this page and talking to an audiologist about preventing hearing loss.
Tinnitus, or “ringing in the ears,” is the sensation of hearing sounds that are not present in the external environment. If you are suffering from a ringing, buzzing, whooshing or clicking in your ears, you are not alone. Over 50 million Americans report some degree of tinnitus. Tinnitus is typically the result of damage to the auditory system, though there are many potential causes.
Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease. Often the exact cause is not known.
- Potential causes include:
- Exposure to loud or sudden impact noises
- Reaction to medication
- Head or neck injuries
- Untreated medical conditions
- Natural aging process
It is important to consider treatment, because bothersome tinnitus can cause sleep disturbance or a disruption to your normal activities. It can also lead to difficulty concentrating, stress, anxiety and depression. Fortunately, tinnitus can be effectively managed.
If you or a loved one is struggling with ringing ears, ask us about possible solutions. The path to relief begins with this conversation.