Hearing Loss

Discover the different kinds of hearing loss and why treatment is important.

Signs of Hearing Loss

If your hearing loss has occurred gradually, it may be difficult to recognize the signs. Oftentimes, it is a loved one or friend who has noticed a change in your hearing ability and they may have suggested you have your hearing checked.

Some common signs of hearing loss you should be aware of are:

If you have noticed any combination of these signs, it’s time to schedule a hearing exam.

Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is incredibly common, affecting around 48 million Americans. However, it often goes undiagnosed and untreated. There are a few types of hearing loss and the causes can vary greatly. The most common types of hearing loss are sensorineural, conductive, and mixed.

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common and occurs due to damage to the hearing nerve or the hair cells inside the inner ear responsible for hearing. Causes include age, genetics, loud noise exposure, ototoxic medications, head trauma, or underlying health conditions (i.e., heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes). Sensorineural hearing loss is irreversible but can be managed with hearing aids.

Conductive hearing loss is less common and occurs due to a blockage or abnormality in the middle ear. Causes include ear infections, fluid in the middle ear, abnormal growth in the middle ear, or ruptured eardrum. This type of hearing loss can be corrected surgically.

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Treatment would require surgery for the conductive portion and hearing aids for the sensorineural portion.

Sudden Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss usually occurs gradually, over the course of a few years. In rare cases, an abrupt loss of hearing loss can occur with no warning – this is known as sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL).

Sudden hearing loss is defined as a hearing reduction of 30 decibels or greater over three contiguous frequencies, occurring over a time period of 72 hours or less. While there are many possible causes of SSHL, some include:

Defining characteristics of sudden hearing loss are experiencing tinnitus (ringing in the ears), vertigo or dizziness, fullness in the ear, a sudden loud pop in the ear, or sudden muffled hearing. If you’ve experienced any of these symptoms, it’s important to see an audiologist immediately. When diagnosed and treated right away, sudden hearing loss can be corrected.

Man wearing hearing protection to protect his ears from noise exposure

Noise Induced Hearing Loss

Noise induced hearing loss is the second most common form of hearing loss (behind age-related loss) and is also the most preventable. Loud noise exposure can cause irreversible damage to hearing ability, which is why it’s important to avoid nosy environments and protect your hearing when loud noise is unavoidable.

Prolonged exposure to noise 85 decibels and over can cause hearing loss over time. A one-time exposure to noise over 120 decibels (rock concert, jack hammer, fireworks, or gunshot) can cause hearing damage immediately. It’s important to wear hearing protection to prevent noise induced hearing loss.

Audiologist presenting the anatomy of the human ear

Unilateral Hearing Loss

Unilateral hearing loss, also known as single sided deafness, occurs when you experience a loss of hearing in one ear while the other ear can hear normally. Unilateral hearing loss can happen to adults and children and can be managed with a specific type of hearing aid.

CROS hearing aids are designed to provide the ear with hearing loss the proper amplification to hear around you. You will then wear a hearing aid in the “normal” hearing ear which will send the sound signals to your “poorer” hearing ear. It’s important to wear the correct types of hearing aids for single sided deafness so you can hear a full range of sounds.

Hearing FAQs

This depends on what type of hearing loss you have. Conductive hearing loss can be surgically corrected. Sensorineural hearing loss however is irreversible. If the hair cells inside the inner ear are damaged, there is no cure. Hearing aids do help though by providing you with amplification and clarity.

Ringing in the ears is known as tinnitus. There can be many reasons why your ears may ring. If you only notice these phantom sounds occasionally and they do not interfere with your daily life, then you do not need to be concerned. If tinnitus affects your concentration or sleep quality, then you should make an appointment.

At Albuquerque Speech Language Hearing Center, our audiologists use a wide range of testing procedures to diagnose tinnitus and hearing loss. We will first take a case history and then determine from there what type of tests are needed to diagnose your tinnitus.

Yes, impacted earwax can cause an array of symptoms, including clogged ears, discomfort, and muffled hearing. To determine if earwax is the cause of your hearing impairment, we will perform an ear exam by using an otoscope to look inside your ears. If earwax is the culprit, our ear specialists can safely and effectively clean your ears in the office.

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