At least 13% of adults 18 or older, 6.3% of those 18-44, and 28.6% of those 65 or older have difficulty hearing. It’s a common condition that has a major impact on your life and healthcare costs.
There are several types of hearing loss you may experience. They affect different parts of the ear for different reasons. This makes it hard to determine which one you have without help from a professional.
Not every type can be fully cured, but the earlier you get treatment, the sooner you can help restore at least some function. Read on to learn how to find out which type of hearing loss you have and where to find help.
Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss
The first signs of hearing loss often show up during social situations. You may even avoid them because of the frustrations of not being able to hear anyone.
Hearing loss may cause you to ask everyone to repeat themselves or feel like they’re mumbling. Friends and family may point out that you’re struggling to hear them, especially if they’re women or children. You won’t be able to make out their voices because they’re quieter and higher-pitched.
There are also certain situations where you may have even more difficulty hearing those around you. These include noisy places such as a concert or when you try to talk on the phone.
A ringing in your ears is a sign of a related condition known as tinnitus. It affects 15% of Americans, with over 2 million of the 50 million cases becoming debilitating.
Types of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is a broad term that refers to any type of issue with your hearing, but there are several types. Finding out which one you’re experiencing is essential for getting the right treatment. They have similar symptoms but different causes and treatment methods.
The three most common types are sensorineural, conductive, and mixed. Knowing their characteristics helps you know what to look for, but seeing a specialist is the best way to be sure about which one you have.
This is the most common type of hearing loss in adults and the population at large. It happens when the inner ear and its hair cells get damaged. This prevents sounds from flowing through your ear and reaching your brain the way they should.
The condition can be hereditary or the natural result of aging. It can also be caused by:
- Ototoxic drugs that damage hearing
- Excessive noise exposure
- Viral infections such as measles or mumps
- High fevers
- Ménière’s disease
- Acoustic tumors
Sensorineural hearing loss can also come on suddenly. An early diagnosis is essential to keep it from progressing to a severe case.
Treatment methods such as medications and surgery won’t always provide a cure here. You may never regain full hearing, but hearing aids can provide a significant improvement.
This type of hearing loss starts in the outer or middle ear. Sound waves are blocked on their way through to the inner ear, keeping you from hearing the way you used to.
Conductive hearing loss can be caused by:
- Ear infections
- Perforated eardrums
- Earwax buildup
- Foreign objects in the ear canal
- Ear bone issues
- Growths or tumors
This is the most common type of hearing loss in children. They haven’t learned not to place objects in their ears or to clean out earwax when necessary.
This is a combination of both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. It’s one of the rarest types, and you may not experience the combination at first.
In addition to the different types of hearing loss, there are also different degrees. They include mild where you struggle to hear soft sounds, moderate where you start to struggle with normal levels of sound, severe where you can only hear loud sounds, and profound where you can only hear loud sounds or none at all.
Treatment for Hearing Loss
The effects of hearing loss extend to your overall health. Older adults who have it spend $22,434 more on health care over 10 years, with 44% more hospital readmissions, 17% more emergency room visits, and 52 more outpatient visits.
There are several ways to prevent hearing loss and keep yourself from dealing with these increased healthcare costs. Keep the volume on your TV and music players low. When you’re in a noisy location, take breaks when you can and use earplugs or earmuffs.
It’s also important to get your hearing tested regularly, especially if you notice symptoms. Visit a specialist such as an ENT, audiologist, or hearing aid specialist. They can determine how much function you have left and which types of hearing loss you’re experiencing.
Conductive hearing loss is one of the easiest types of hearing loss to cure. Depending on the cause, it may only involve a simple procedure such as removing objects or wax buildup or combatting ear infections.
You may need surgery for other types of conductive hearing loss. This could mean fixing issues with the eardrum or bone of the ear known as ossicles. You may also need to have tubes inserted to drain fluid if you have persistent ear infections.
Sensironeaul hearing loss is the most difficult to prevent because you can often be born with it. It’s also a bit more difficult to treat and typically requires hearing aids or cochlear implants. You may want to read about Bluetooth hearing aids and find the right one for you.
Where to Learn More About Hearing Loss
There are 3 common types of hearing loss. Sensorineural affects the inner ear and its hair cells. Conductive results from blockages to the inner or outer ear. Mixed is a combination of the two.
Treatments for hearing loss vary. Start by getting a test from a hearing specialist to determine which type you have and how best to combat it. Options include removing a blockage, clearing an infection, getting surgery, draining, and getting a hearing aid or ocular implant.
Read the rest of our content for more information on preventing and treating hearing loss.