Loss of hearing can either be formed before birth known as congenital or formed after birth, known as acquired. The form of loss we will focus discussion on in this article is acquired hearing loss. Acquired loss of hearing is exactly what the name states and it can be attributed to many factors that will be outlined in this article, including trauma, environmental hazards such noise exposure, medication toxins or allergens, illness, and the natural process of aging. In addition, the article will discuss the importance of getting regular hearing tests and why it is important to get treatment for loss of hearing as soon as possible.
Understanding Noise Induced Hearing Loss
First, let’s discuss noise-induced hearing loss and the three factors contributing to this loss. Noise-induced loss is most commonly present in environments where noise exposure exists due to loud machinery, loud music, explosions, or in areas where decibels exceed 85 dBA.
The three factors putting a person at risk for noise-induced hearing loss include how loud is the noise, where are you in relation to the noise, and what is the length of the noise. How long the noise lasts is important because we do not have to be exposed to loud noises over long periods of time to experience a traumatic loss of hearing. Consider impulse noise, impulse noise is often traumatic as it is unexpected. A perfect example of impulse noise is a gunshot or fireworks, the sound or blast is impactful enough, lasting only seconds, but can permanently damage hearing depending upon proximity to the loud sound. It is important to limit exposure to loud sounds and some ways of ensuring you do include wearing protective noise eliminating head phones or ear plugs, lowering volume levels to a comfortable level, and limiting your exposure to loud sounds.
Understanding Presbycusis or Age-Related Hearing Loss
The most common acquired loss of hearing is age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis. Categorized as a sensorineural hearing loss, age-related loss is a slow and gradual process that occurs over time initially affecting higher pitched sounds. Age-related hearing loss is caused by the loss of hair cells in the inner ear and usually occurs bi-laterally. Most people affected by presbycusis do not realize they are losing their hearing as the loss is gradual and virtually goes unnoticed. While presbycusis is irreversible, hearing aids and assistive technology can support effected individuals.
Additional causes for acquired loss of hearing include illness and medically related conditions such as meningitis, diabetes, dementia, and high blood pressure. While these conditions are just a few to name, many other conditions can cause loss of hearing. To avoid further damage to hearing due to medical conditions, hearing tests should be completed on a yearly basis and made a routine plan of care during your annual exam.
The Importance of Regular Hearing Tests to Reduce Acquired Hearing Loss
It is important to have hearing tested regularly to catch a loss early and prevent further damage. A baseline should be obtained and will provide a reference point for future tests. After obtaining a baseline, underlying medical conditions and potential problems can be identified as well as a plan for treatment. Having regular hearing exams is important for understanding developmental milestones in children to ensure delays do not present in speech and cognition.
Risks of untreated hearing loss include deterioration of the brain, in turn causing cognitive impairment, leading to problems with concentration and fatigue. Untreated hearing loss can also accelerate the progression of other medical conditions; therefore, it is important to address loss of hearing quickly and develop a hearing loss treatment plan to eliminate further loss of hearing and damage. Some options for hearing loss treatment include hearing aids, assistive technology, text and signaling displays, such as closed captioning, medical treatment, and aural rehabilitation.
In conclusion, participating in regular hearing tests can eliminate further damage contributing to an acquired loss. Treatment plans and devices to assist with hearing should be implemented to assist with better hearing reducing further damage or trauma caused to the ear. A hearing test should be completed annually, a baseline should be obtained to reference future readings. It is best practice for hearing tests to be completed by a hearing professional.
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