Revealing the Causes of Hearing Loss

Revealing the Causes of Hearing Loss

May 31, 2014

Huh.pngIt is estimated that a person with hearing loss waits anywhere from seven to ten years before taking action to remedy the situation. Unlike a decrease in visual acuity, which most people readily accept, part of the reason for the delay in treating hearing loss is due to a lack of understanding or denial of the underlying causes.


There are several possible anatomical culprits at the root of a hearing loss .  A hearing loss is often given a description to indicate the physiological cause for the decrease in sensitivity to sound. The most common type of hearing loss is called “sensorineural hearing loss” (SNHL). Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when inner ear nerve endings are damaged and do not properly transmit sound signals to the brain. Your inner ear contains tiny “hair” cells (stereocilia). Prolonged exposure to constant loud noise or even short exposure to powerful impulsive noises such as a shotgun or rifle report close to your ear can cause these sensory cell structures to wither, break, or become damaged. When hair cells become damaged, the ear cannot detect sounds properly. Sensorineural hearing loss can also be caused by a traumatic head injury, certain illnesses, ototoxic prespription medications or the aging process. However, exposure to loud noise is one of the most common causes.


This type of hearing loss commonly effects only certain pitches of sound, causing a distortion in the perception of sounds being received; many people that have this type of loss will ask a person they are conversing with to repeat themselves multiple times, but ask them “don’t shout” if they raise their voice. Likely effects are difficulty understanding children, female voices, soft-spoken people and trouble understanding in groups or crowds. Many times sensorineural hearing loss causes a decrease in the perceived clarity of conversation, almost like other people are mumbling and not enunciating.


Some individuals also experience hearing loss due to disorders with the middle and outer ear, or a combination of both. This type of hearing loss is called “conductive hearing loss” because it is a disruption, obstruction or weakening of the structures of the ear that conduct sound to the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss can result from conditions such as ear infections, impacted earwax, malformation of the ear structures or other related issues. These factors can occur at birth or as a temporary dysfunction.


Conductive hearing loss is most often perceived as a very noticeable decrease in the intensity or volume of ambient sounds and a serious decrease in the volume of voices. Listening in background noise is many times not much of an issue for this type of loss. Instead, a craving for louder than normal volume in TV, radio and live voices is felt.


Occasionally, a person has a combination of factors contributing to the loss of hearing, creating a “mixed hearing loss”, which simply means that the hearing loss consists of both conductive and sensorineural components. Sometimes conductive causes of hearing loss can be medically treated by a physician specializing in diseases of the ear, nose and throat.


Regardless of what caused your or a loved one’s hearing loss, it is important to seek hearing care to avoid communication and listening difficulties. We recommend having your hearing checked by one of our qualified specialists . If hearing aids are recommended for your type of hearing loss, don’t delay in getting fit. Simply visit our Contact Us page to request a complimentary hearing consultation.

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