Hearing Professionals of Illinois

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A Guide to Understanding Hearing Loss

Woman with Hand to Ear

Hearing loss affects approximately five percent of the world’s population, according to the World Health Organization. Affecting both adults and children, early detection and identification are imperative in preventing the progression of it. If you start to notice any signs of hearing loss, it’s important that you book an appointment with an audiologist as soon as possible. 

There are three main types of hearing loss:

  • Conductive: This occurs when there is a problem with the middle or outer ear. Preventing external sounds from reaching your eardrum, it can be the result of a blockage from earwax and fluid in the ear. 
  • Sensorineural: This type of hearing loss occurs when there is a problem with the auditory nerve or functionality/structure of the inner ear. Permanent, there are many treatments available. 
  • Mixed: A combination of the two above types.

Signs of hearing loss - adults

  • Complaining that people aren’t speaking loud enough 
  • Trouble in understanding people when they talk/asking them to repeat themselves
  • Avoiding social occasions
  • Turning the volume up on the tv and/or radio
  • Not hearing or understanding people when they talk to you without facing you
  • Straining to hear any conversations 
  • Frustration when you can’t hear
  • Inability to hear high-pitched noises

Signs of hearing loss - infants and children

  • Delayed language development and speech
  • Asking people to repeat themselves
  • Difficulty to produce high-pitched consonant sounds (such as “sh” and “th”)
  • Change in behavior at home or at school
  • Failure to pass hearing tests

Key causes

Here are the most common causes of hearing loss, which can result in either a temporary or permanent loss of hearing:

  • Age-related (also known as presbycusis) 
  • Noise-induced
  • Fluid in the ear
  • A result of Meniere’s disease
  • An ear infection
  • A build-up of earwax
  • Tinnitus
  • Ototoxic drugs
  • Shingles
  • Viral infections (such as measles) 
  • Injury-related

Preventative measures

It is important that you take the proper precautions when it comes to your hearing health. For example, if you work within a loud workplace, you should wear earplugs/ear protection when you can in order to limit your exposure to loud noises.

If you have a child, make sure that you turn the volume of the tv/radio down and that they wear ear protection if they are attending a loud music event.

Key treatments

If hearing loss is temporary, the treatment might include removing the earwax or foreign object from your ear with a simple procedure. You might also be required to take ear drops in order to clear the blockage.

If it is permanent, however, your audiologist might suggest the following treatment to help:

  • Hearing aids: You will be fitted for a bespoke hearing aid by your audiologist, who will guide you on how to use it and how to look after it.