The most common cause of hearing loss is age, but there are contributing risk factors that can cause early onset hearing loss as well. Genetics can also play a part in a person hearing levels. We will now go through the various types of hearing loss to help you understand what may impact your own hearing.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural Hearing Loss happens because the sensory hair cells inside the cochlea (the spiralled section of your inner ear) gradually get damaged or die, or there is subsequent damage to the neural pathways of hearing.
The two most common forms of Sensorineural Hearing Loss are Presbyacusis and Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL).
You’re particularly at risk of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss if you work with noisy equipment (e.g. pneumatic drills), are a musician or spend a lot of time in loud environments, such as nightclubs, motor racing tracks, shooting clubs etc. Those who listen to music at high volumes, especially through headphones, are also at risk of NIHL. These days, there is more awareness of the destructive role of noise on our hearing and effective hearing protection is readily available, whether for Industrial, Leisure, or Home application.
Sensorineural hearing loss can also be caused by the use of certain drugs and medications. Medications that can damage hearing are known as ototoxic drugs. These drugs can cause hearing loss, tinnitus and balance disorders. Some symptoms resolve when medication is stopped however some damage caused can be irreversible.
Ototoxic drugs include antibiotics such as gentamicin, loop diuretics such as furosemide and platinum-based chemotherapy agents such as cisplatin.
If you suspect you may be taking ototoxic medication consult with your doctor to discuss alternate treatments.
Conductive Hearing Loss
A common cause of Conductive Hearing Loss is when the ear (canal or eustachian tube) is blocked, which means that sounds are unable to pass into the inner ear. The cause may be as simple as a build-up of ear wax which can be dealt with quickly and effectively by our Wax Removal Procedure.
Conductive Hearing Loss due to other causes (such as glue ear, otitis media) is usually temporary and can often be treated with medication or minor surgery.
For long-standing, or permanent cases of conductive hearing loss, treatment of hearing aids, or more specialist devices such as Bone Conduction Hearing Aids, can be prescribed.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both Sensorineural Hearing Loss and Conductive Hearing Loss, resulting from problems in the outer, middle and inner ear. Treatments range from medication to minor surgery or the prescription of hearing aids.
In simple terms, Presbyacusis is normal, age-related hearing loss. It is the gradual deterioration of the cochlear hair cells, as a result of the normal ageing process. The loss is progressive, and irreversible, and often occurs in both ears equally.
As this happens, you will begin to have difficulty hearing high-frequency sounds like women’s and children’s voices. You may also find it harder to identify consonant sounds, which makes it harder to distinguish speech against background noise.
There’s no getting around the fact that age is the biggest single cause of hearing loss. Most people will begin to lose a small amount of hearing when they’re in their 30’s and 40’s and this loss will gradually increase as they get older. By the time they’re in their 80’s, most people will have developed a significant loss.
The treatment for presbyacusis is the provision of hearing aids.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
It is always better to prevent hearing loss, rather than treat it.
When we’re young, we often neglect the importance of our hearing and expose ourselves to high levels of sound/music that can potentially cause damage. Fortunately, when we are young, our ears can recover quickly and effectively. Though this isn’t always the case.
One Study found that, from a study of student musicians, 45% had some level of Noise-Induced Hearing Loss.
Some 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk of hearing loss due to the unsafe use of personal audio devices, including smartphones, and exposure to damaging levels of sound at noisy entertainment venues such as nightclubs, bars and sporting events… Hearing loss has potentially devastating consequences for physical and mental health, education and employment.
WHO (World Health Organisation)