1. How common is hearing loss?
According to Statistics Canada, 1 in 10 Canadians has a hearing loss. Hearing loss is a disability that frequently goes unnoticed. It is the most common sensory impairment in adults over the age of 65, affecting more than 30% of Canadians in this age group.
2. What causes hearing loss?
There are many factors that can lead to different types of hearing loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form of hearing loss in adults. It is a result of damage to the inner ear or the nerves from the ear to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss is a permanent condition which cannot be treated medically or surgically.
The effects of sensorineural hearing loss are twofold. First there is a reduction in sound level so that faint to moderate sounds become difficult to hear. There is also a reduction in clarity. This makes speech very difficult to comprehend even when the speaker is loud enough to be heard.
The most common causes of sensorineural hearing loss are aging and noise exposure. Other causes include viruses, birth injury, head trauma, genetic syndromes, tumors, and drugs that are toxic to the auditory system.
Conductive Hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs from damage or blockage in the outer or middle ear. With this type of hearing loss sound is conducted less efficiently through the outer and middle ear space resulting in a reduction in sound level. This type of hearing loss can sometimes be corrected medically.
Common causes of conductive hearing loss include cerumen (wax) buildup in the ear canal, infection in the ear canal, infection or fluid in the middle ear, eardrum perforation, foreign bodies, damage to the middle ear bones or ossicles, and absence or malformation of the outer and middle ear.
Mixed Hearing Loss
A mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. That is, damage to the outer, middle, inner ear and nerve can occur together.
3. How do I know if I have a hearing loss?
The best way to find out if you have a hearing loss is to have your hearing tested by a certified hearing health care professional. However, there are several symptoms that may indicate that you have a hearing loss.
Do you find that speech and other sounds seem muffled or indistinct?
Do you have difficulty understanding speech in background noise such as crowds?
Do you frequently ask others to repeat themselves or talk more slowly or loudly?
Do you require the tv or radio to be turned up so that it is uncomfortable for others?
Do you find yourself withdrawing from conversations and/or avoiding some social settings because you have difficulty following conversations?
Do you often experience fatigue at the end of the day?
If your answered yes to any of the following questions you may have a hearing loss. Call us today to book your hearing test.
4. At what age should I have my hearing tested on a regular basis?
After age 55 people should have their hearing tested approximately every 2 years.
5. Are there different levels of hearing loss?
There are several levels or degrees of hearing loss each with its own consequences for quality of life.
0-25 dB: Normal range of hearing
26-40 dB: Mild hearing loss, difficulty hearing soft speech and some speech in noise. More serious for infants and young children who need to hear speech to learn to talk.
41-55 dB: Moderate hearing loss, difficulty hearing conversational speech.
56-70 dB: Moderately-severe hearing loss, great difficulty hearing speech in both quiet and noisy environments.
71-90 dB: Severe hearing loss, cannot hear most environmental sounds or normal speech without the use of hearing aids or assistive listening devices.
91 + dB: Profound hearing loss, this is what most people think of as “deaf.” Cannot hear most environmental sounds or speech.
6. What are the consequences of not seeking treatment for hearing loss?
Most people wait an average of 7 years to seek treatment after being diagnosed with hearing loss. This is unfortunate, as untreated hearing loss can have a severe impact on social relationships and quality of life.
Untreated hearing loss often leads to:
– Withdrawal from social activities.
– Feelings of stress, anxiety and isolation.
– Communication difficulties between significant others.
– Decreased quality of life.
Prompt treatment can help minimize the impact of hearing loss on quality of life.
7. What can be done to treat hearing loss?
Fortunately, there are many assistive devices, such as hearing aids, that can improve most types of hearing loss. Today’s advanced technology is very discreet and can help most people hear better, even in noisy settings.
8. How does noise exposure damage my hearing?
Noise damage is the result of long term or repeated exposure to moderate and loud sounds such as industrial machinery or music. It can also occur after a single exposure to a very loud sound such as and explosion or gun shot. The effects of noise exposure are permanent.
Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) results from damage to the hair cells in the inner ear (cochlea). Once these cells are damaged they do not regenerate. The result of such damage includes decreased hearing for soft sound, decreased speech clarity, and difficulty hearing in noise. Prolonged exposure to noise over 85 dB can result in permanent NIHL. Following are considered safe levels of exposure:
8 hours at 85 dB
4 hours at 88 dB
2 hours at 91 dB
1 hour at 94 dB
As you can see safe exposure depends on the level of noise and the amount of time you are exposed to it. As sound level doubles (every 3 dB) the safe exposure time is halved. Sounds over 120 dB can cause damage even after very brief exposure. Some concerts can reach this level.
9.How can I prevent noise induced hearing loss?
There are several things you can do to prevent noise induced hearing loss:
- Turn down the volume on mp3 and other music players. If you cannot hear and fully understand the person speaking next to you, the volume is too loud
- Wear hearing protection when exposed to loud noise at work, concerts and sporting events or when using noisy tools both at home and work
- Limit the amount of time you are exposed to loud noise
Tips for Cleaning Your Hearing Aids
In order to keep your hearing aids in good working order they should be cleaned on a regular basis. Below you will find some simple preventative maintenance tips to help keep you in tune with the world around you:
- Using the tools provided with your hearing aid, brush any visible wax off your aid, earmold, or dome. This should be done on a daily basis.
- Open the battery door, take out the battery and brush out the battery compartment.
- If your hearing aid has wax guards they should be changed approximately once a month. (your hearing health care provider will provide instruction upon fitting).
- Some earmolds can be detached from the hearing aid and cleaned with soap and warm water. Never put the hearing aid itself in water, only the earmold can be cleaned this way. Not all earmolds can be detached, ask your hearing health care professional if you are unsure.
- Store your hearing aids in a dry place and away from any family pets. The storage case provided with your hearing aids is the safest spot for them.
- If you are not getting any sound from your hearing aids try replacing the wax guard. If this does not work change the battery. If you still do not get any sound after following these steps call your hearing health care professional.
- Bring your hearing aids in for a checkup on a regular basis (about 3-4 per year).
Following these simple steps will ensure that you get the most out of you hearing aids.