Hearing loss is one of the most common health conditions people live with today. Impacting over 48 million people, or 20% of adults, it is likely that you know someone with impaired hearing. Hearing loss reduces a person’s capacity to hear and process speech as well as sound which produces a range of symptoms.
These symptoms have a myriad of effects on daily life: straining communication, relationships, social engagement, work life, etc. With today’s innovative hearing technologies, there are effective ways hearing loss is treated. Being able to recognize early signs and intervene early can significantly support your transition to stronger hearing health.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are three different types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form of hearing loss people experience and is the type we’ll focus on here.
In addition to different types of hearing loss, there is a range or spectrum of varying levels of hearing loss. This is measured in units referred to as decibels (dB) and describes how loud a sound needs to be for a person to hear them. This includes:
The quietest sound that can be detected is 26 - 40dB which makes it difficult to hear whispers or conversations in active settings.
The quietest sound that can be detected is 41 - 70dB. This makes it challenging to hear and follow conversations in environments with background noise.
The quietest sound that can be detected is 71 - 90dB. This level of hearing loss requires a hearing aid and sound amplification tools to help support hearing in all settings.
the quietest sound that can be detected is 91dB+. This level of hearing loss requires intervention to hear everyday sounds and speech.
The degree of hearing loss can be different in one ear compared to the other and can also change over time.
Several factors can cause hearing loss. A few of the most common causes include the following:
- Aging: age-related hearing loss, also known as presbycusis, is a major cause of sensorineural hearing loss. The risk of experiencing hearing loss increases with age as a result of a few factors including the continual wear of loud noise on the hair cells in the inner ear, changes to the ear over time, as well as medical conditions that also impact older adults disproportionately.
- Noise: time or repeated exposure to loud noise can damage the hair cells in the inner ear. This reduces their ability to perform their essential task of translating soundwaves into electrical signals for the brain.
- Medical conditions: substantial research shows that numerous medical conditions increase the risk of developing hearing loss. Conditions like cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and osteoporosis impact blood flow as well as bone health which impacts the auditory system.
Additional causes of hearing loss include head injuries, inner ear disorders, and chronic ear infections.
Hearing loss produces a range of symptoms that can be experienced mildly to proudly. Common signs include:
- Sound is slurred, muffled, or distorted.
- Increasing the volume on electronic devices like the TV or phone.
- Asking others to repeat themselves or speak louder.
- Difficulty hearing in environments with background noise.
- Missing words or parts of a conversation.
- Lip reading to help distinguish individual words.
- Struggling to keep up while talking to others.
These symptoms strain communication and can take a toll on relationships, social life, work performance, and overall health. If any of these symptoms seem familiar, it is important to have your hearing assessed. Hearing tests are painless and measure hearing health, identifying any issues that need to be treated.