Hearing Loss Overview

Everything You Need to Know About Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the third most common medical condition in the United States, affecting some 48 million Americans. While the majority of people with hearing loss are over the age of 65, hearing loss affects people of all ages. With the increasing use of headphones and remarkably noisy environments, we may expect to see even greater hearing loss in future generations. People over the age of 50 are advised to take an annual hearing test; even if a hearing loss is not present, it is useful to establish a baseline of one’s hearing abilities.

Hearing loss is a permanent condition and it is often left undiagnosed

The Hearing Loss Association of America estimates that people wait seven years from the time they first notice changes in their hearing to the time they decide to seek treatment. Treating hearing loss brings significant benefits to one’s well-being, bolstering one’s emotional and physical health.

Hearing loss is most commonly treated with the prescription of hearing aids. Hearing aids provide incredible precision and clarity of sound, and are available for a wide range of hearing needs, including those who live active lifestyles. Hearing aids require careful fitting, which relies on data gleaned from a comprehensive hearing test. If you are diagnosed with a hearing loss, our team will work with you to find the best solution to meet your needs.

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Approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population have a significant hearing loss.

(Center for Hearing and Communication)

People with hearing loss wait an average of seven years before seeking help.

(Center for Hearing and Communication)

30 million Americans are exposed to dangerous noise levels everyday.

(American-Speech-Language -Hearing Association)

Causes of Hearing Loss

The most common cause of hearing loss is presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss. Other causes of hearing loss include:

  • An ear infection, such as otitis media
  • A blockage of earwax, or cerumen, in the ear canal
  • Allergies or other illnesses that increase fluid in the ears
  • Repeated exposure to loud sounds, such as machinery in a workplace
  • Sudden exposure to a loud sound, such as an explosion
  • Exposure to ototoxic chemicals, those that can cause hearing loss
  • Injury to the outer or middle ear
  • Hereditary hearing loss
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Types of Hearing Loss

Although each individual experience is different, there are three major types of hearing loss.
  • Conductive Hearing Loss

    Occurs in the outer or middle ear where sound is conducted from the outside world. With conductive hearing loss, it is difficult for people to pick up sound from their environment.

  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss

    Affects the inner ear. The tiny hair cells found in the inner ear become damaged and do not regenerate, which makes it difficult for sound waves to be translated into auditory signals that are recognized by the brain.

  • Mixed Hearing Loss

    A mix of the two aforementioned types, sometimes occurring in those who have suffered injury or illness-related hearing loss.

 

Configurations of Hearing Loss

If a person only experiences hearing loss in one of the two ears, the condition is referred to as unilateral hearing loss. More commonly, hearing loss occurs in both ears at once, which is called bilateral hearing loss. If one has different degrees of hearing loss in the two ears, it is said to be asymmetrical hearing loss.

Timing also plays a role: many people experience progressive hearing loss over time, especially through the aging process. On the other hand, some may have sudden hearing loss as a result of exposure to a very loud sound, such as an explosion, or an illness. In some cases, fluctuating hearing loss comes and goes, and is often associated with an obstruction or allergy-related muffling of sound.

Ranges of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be categorized in terms of ranges: different pitches, or frequencies, and at different volumes, or amplitudes.

For instance, if a person is unable to hear a relatively quiet sound at a high frequency, then hearing loss may be very mild. On the other hand, the inability to hear loud and low frequencies may mean that a person has profound hearing loss.

The loudness of sound is measured in decibels. If a frequency of sound must be played at a loud decibel level in order to be heard, this sound will be registered on the following chart of hearing loss severity:

Degree of hearing loss

Hearing loss range (in decibels)

Normal

-10 to 15

Slight

16 to 25

Mild

26 to 40

Moderate

41 to 55

Moderately Severe

56 to 70

Severe

71 to 90

Profound

90+