Hearing is something most people take for granted. Unfortunately for millions of Americans, it can eventually become compromised. In fact, roughly one-third of Americans between the ages of 65 and 75 have some degree of hearing loss. Many begin experiencing the effects of damaged hearing decades earlier.
The Symptoms of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is generally categorized into one of three types: conductive (involves the outer ear), sensorineural (involves the inner ear), or mixed (a combination of the two). The signs and symptoms of hearing loss include:
- Difficulty understanding words – particularly when there’s background noise.
- Muffled sounds and speech.
- Challenges hearing consonants.
- Frequent requests for other people to talk louder and/or turn up TV volume.
- Withdrawal from social settings and conversations with others.
- Chronic ringing in the ear (tinnitus)
- Some sounds seem too loud (known as recruitment)
Sensorineural hearing loss is definitely the most common type. It’s caused by damage to the very delicate hair cells that line the inner ear. It can also be brought on by damage to the nerve pathways that deliver sound to the brain. In fact, roughly 90 percent of people with hearing loss have this type.
The Causes of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can occur in any number of settings. Sometimes it’s the result of an isolated incident – like an explosion – while other times it stems from chronic exposure to undesirable circumstances. Common causes include:
- Gradual buildup of earwax. Hearing loss related to wax buildup is typically addressed by having a medical professional safely removing the wax.
- A severe ear infection, tumor, or bone growth in the outer or middle ear can cause hearing loss.
- When there’s a loud explosion, blast, or sudden exposure to noise, the pressure within the ear changes. This can cause a ruptured eardrum and, subsequently, hearing loss.
When it comes to preventing hearing loss, there are some smart steps people can take. One of the most common suggestions is to wear hearing protection when you know you’ll be exposed to loud noises. However, these products aren’t perfect.
There’s currently a large lawsuit against earplug manufacturer 3M. Thousands of veterans and service members have experienced hearing loss as a result of using defective 3M Combat Arms Earplugs during trainings and service. They were using earplugs that they thought were blocking out dangerous levels of noise, when the earplugs were actually less effective than promised.
In other words, even with the right hearing protection, you still have to be cautious about what you expose yourself to. Avoiding loud noises altogether is the best policy.
What to Do About Hearing Loss
If you already have hearing loss, there are some steps you can take to lessen the consequences and lessen the symptoms. Here are a few recommended steps to take:
- See a Doctor
You might be able to connect the dots and self-diagnose hearing loss, but you don’t have the medical expertise to determine what’s causing the hearing loss. Make sure you see a doctor to get a proper diagnosis and course of action.
- Remove Wax Buildup
It’s entirely possible that your hearing loss is partially or totally caused by wax buildup inside the ear canal. Have your doctor clean out your ears. If nothing else, it’ll lead to a slight improvement.
- Get Hearing Aids
Hearing aid technology has improved significantly over the last five years. Many of them are largely invisible to the naked eye. They’re also highly effective. Speak with your doctor about your options.
- Consider Procedures
If your doctor can identify a specific issue, he or she may recommend a procedure to correct or improve hearing. In severe cases, a cochlear implant may be an option.
- Prevent Further Damage
Hearing loss occurs on a scale. If you already have some damage, it’s important that you prevent further damage from occurring. This means avoiding environments where hearing damage is likely to occur – like fireworks shows, shooting ranges, concerts, and airstrips. And if you ever do find yourself in close proximity to loud sounds, proper hearing protection is a must.
Stop Taking Your Hearing for Granted
As anyone who has struggled with hearing loss – temporary or chronic – knows, it’s frustrating to live in a world where you can’t hear voices and sounds in the same capacity as everyone else. Don’t learn this lesson the hard way. Take care of your hearing today so you can enjoy life the way it’s meant to be lived.