Understanding Types of Hearing Loss and The Right Treatments
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The ability to hear daily conversations, birds singing in the morning or the joyful laughter of friends and family is frequently taken for granted. One may not realise how fortunate they are to be able to hear those sounds until they experience hearing difficulty. The misery increases, as our world is designed for people with healthy hearing. With most information being shared through spoken language, engaging in social interactions may be daunting, thus increasing the risk of social withdrawal. Withdrawing from social interactions is common in people with hearing impairment. As spoken language is the most common mode of communication, they may face difficulty to grasp verbal messages and feel isolated from their peers. Such events may be familiar if you or a loved one suffers from hearing loss. Now that you're here, let's look at the different types of hearing loss and find the right hearing solutions that work.
About Hearing LossHearing loss is a condition that makes someone unable to hear certain sounds. Individuals with healthy hearing should be able to hear sounds ranging from 125 to 8000 Hz and -10 to 125 dB without any problems. On the other hand, people affected with the most common type of hearing loss generally find it difficult to hear higher-pitched sounds (i.e., 2000 to 8000 Hz) without the sound’s volume increasing (15 and above dB rates). That means, hearing certain sounds, such as children's or women’s voices may become a problem for them. In turn, they may ask the speaker to speak louder for them to hear clearly.
How Does Hearing Loss Emerge?Hearing loss can develop from a variety of causes, including childbirth and other factors that develop later in life. Let's examine how hearing impairment emerges in greater detail, as explained below:
ChildbirthHearing impairment may emerge during childbirth as a result of multiple factors. That includes genetics, prenatal infections, and certain medications taken during pregnancy. Early detection during childbirth of congenital hearing impairment is recommended. Hence, many infants go through hearing screenings to check for the presence of hearing difficulties. This allows parents to determine the appropriate treatments for their children. By getting the right treatments, children can effectively develop communication skills appropriate for their age.
Developed later in lifeCertain factors that cause hearing impairment may develop later in life. These factors include exposure to loud noises, underlying medical conditions, and ageing. Exposure to loud noises, such as raging machine sounds or music at high volumes may damage the delicate hair cells in the ears. When the delicate hair cells in the ears deteriorate, it will lead to hearing difficulty over time. In addition, underlying medical conditions, such as Meningitis, Meniere’s disease, diabetes, heart disease, and autoimmune diseases may also lead to hearing impairment. This is because these medical conditions may constrict blood flow to the inner ear, resulting in gradual hearing loss. Finally, ageing is another factor that causes hearing impairment. It’s natural for human inner ear cells to die off as they get older. This results in gradual difficulty of hearing, which is common in people aged 50 and above.
3 Types of Hearing LossThere are mainly 3 types of hearing loss that occur. That includes sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss, and mixed hearing loss. These hearing impairment groups may respond differently to sounds, thus requiring different treatments. Let’s take a look at these types of hearing loss in greater detail below:
1. Sensorineural Hearing LossSensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is the most common type of hearing impairment. It is caused by damage to the inner ear or the nerve pathways that transmit sound from the inner ear to the brain. Several factors contribute to SNHL, including ageing, exposure to loud noises, and genetics. Though other factors like medications and infections may also play a role in its development. Having SNHL, someone may exhibit several symptoms, such as difficulty in understanding speech in noisy environments and difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds.
2. Conductive Hearing LossConductive hearing loss (CHL) is the type of hearing impairment that occurs when sound waves are not conducted properly through the outer or middle ear. Several factors contribute to this condition, including ear canal blockage, eardrum damage, and issues within the middle or outer ear. When someone has CHL, they may have muffled hearing, which makes them find it difficult to hear in noisy environments. Another sign of CHL is constant pain or discomfort in the ears.
3. Mixed Hearing LossMixed hearing loss is a combination of SNHL and CHL. When someone has this condition, it means the inner and outer or middle ear nerves are damaged. Several reasons lead someone to have a mixed hearing impairment, such as:
- Chronic ear infections
- Head injuries
- Exposure to loud noises
- Certain medications
- Underlying medical conditions
How is Hearing Impairment Diagnosed?Hearing impairment is diagnosed through the Pure Tone Audiometric (PTA) test. Using the test, an audiologist can examine how both ears respond to sound at multiple frequencies. Clients will receive their results the same day they take the PTA test. The hearing professional or audiologist will then explain the severity or the possibility of hearing impairment based on the audiogram. Aside from explaining the test outcomes, the audiologist will also suggest hearing solutions that work for certain conditions. That includes hearing aids, listening rehabilitation, cochlear implant, or other relevant options.
Hearing Impairment DegreesHearing impairment is a spectrum. Everyone experiences this condition differently. That’s why we need to understand the degree of hearing impairment, aside from the types of hearing loss. Understanding the hearing impairment degree requires you to identify the difference between Hz and dB rates. Hz is the frequency or pitch of the sounds, whereas dB indicates the intensity or volume of the sound. Healthy human ears can capture sound ranging from 125 to 8000 Hz and -10 to 120 dB. With hearing impairment, the higher the pitch (Hz) the higher the volume (dB) should also be.
|Hearing Impairment Degree|
|Healthy hearing||Minimum hearing -10 to 15 dB|
|Slight hearing loss||Minimum hearing 16 to 25 dB|
|Mild hearing loss||Minimum hearing 26 to 40 dB|
|Moderate hearing loss||Minimum hearing 41 to 55 dB|
|Moderately severe hearing loss||Minimum hearing 56 to 70 dB|
|Severe hearing loss||Minimum hearing 71 to 90 dB|
|Profound hearing loss||Minimum hearing above 91 dB|
What are the impacts of hearing impairment?People with healthy hearing may be unaware of the impacts caused by hearing impairment. According to WHO, hearing impairment can have a broad impact, including communication difficulties and delayed language development. Communication difficulties and delayed language development will increase the risk of cognitive decline, social isolation, loneliness, and frustration. This is especially true for the elderly with hearing impairment. Now let’s take a look at the impact of hearing impairment in more detail below:
Delayed language developmentIt may be challenging for children with hearing impairment to develop linguistic skills. They may have no concept of verbal communication as almost all information is shared through spoken language, resulting in delayed language development.
Communication difficultiesThe majority of people communicate verbally. When someone has a long-term hearing impairment, it may be difficult for them to comprehend the shared message. As a result, they frequently struggle to understand others or to make themselves understood.
Cognitive declineHumans communicate to express their ideas, opinions, and knowledge. When someone has a prolonged hearing impairment, it may be difficult for them to engage in social interactions, resulting in stagnant, if not declining cognitive skills.
Social isolationProlonged hearing impairment can make a person feel inferior in comparison to their social peers. They may believe that no one understands them, resulting in a feeling of being left out by friends and family.
LonelinessConstantly feeling like nobody understands them, combined with frequent withdrawal from social peers, can make someone experience loneliness. This is particularly true for older generations, which can be detrimental to their mental health.
FrustrationBeing unable to clearly understand what is going on around them frequently leads someone with hearing impairment to frustration. It can be painful for them to be isolated from social groups and have no idea what everyone is talking about.
What Are The Treatments For Hearing Impairment?Depending on the severity and the types of hearing loss, different treatments may work to reduce symptoms, resulting in better hearing. So, what are the hearing impairment treatments? We'll go over them in more detail below.
Earwax removalEarwax removal is the first approach to treating hearing impairment. In some cases, earwax can block the ear canal, resulting in ineffective hearing. Hence why a hearing professional will conduct Otoscopy before performing the PTA to check for the possibility of earwax build-up.
Hearing aidsHearing aids are helpful to improve hearing. They work by increasing the sound waves, which help the ear nerves to transmit sounds more effectively to the brain. People with a Sensorineural hearing loss can benefit from high-quality hearing aids. They can now choose from a wide range of options, depending on their requirements and preferences. With Conductive Hearing Loss and Mixed Hearing Loss, hearing aids are recommended after being cleared by an ENT doctor.
Cochlear implantsCochlear implants involve surgically placing a medical device into the inner ear or cochlea. This procedure is carried out to improve hearing in people who see little to no improvements from hearing aids. Once the medical device is implanted, people who opt for this treatment will also need an external speech processor, which serves as the sound detector. The sounds will be digitised and transmitted via magnet into the internal implants to stimulate the auditory nerve fibres.
Final ThoughtsThere are mainly three types of hearing loss: sensorineural hearing loss, conductive hearing loss and mixed hearing loss. Experiencing any of these hearing impairments can have detrimental impacts on one’s quality of life. That is where a hearing test can be a solution. By detecting signs of hearing impairment early, you or your loved ones can receive the appropriate treatments and enjoy a better life with better hearing. In cases hearing aids are needed, you or your loved ones can also choose from a variety of options available at The Listening Lab. We provide hearing aids from leading brands, such as Signia, Widex, ReSound, and Phonak. Contact us and see how we can help you today!
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