Almost one-third of Americans over the age of 65 years old is living with hearing loss. The extent of the condition varies depending on the severity of the cause. “Presbycusis,” or age-related hearing loss is a struggle than most of us will eventually deal with at some point in our life.
There are three categories of hearing loss.
• Conductive – involving the outer or middle ear.
• Sensorineural – involving the inner ear.
• Mixed – A combination of conductive and sensorineural.
Hearing loss is a chronic condition with no cure. However, doctors can prescribe hearing aids to help you cope with the progression of your situation. Hearing devices are not a miracle cure, but they help patients with managing their environmental stimulus to ensure they remain socially, physically, and mentally active during their senior years.
Many seniors don’t realize they are living with severe hearing loss. The condition occurs gradually, developing over a period of decades. As a result, the affected individual may not realize the extent of their hearing loss, until a spouse, family member, or friend brings it up.
The symptoms of hearing loss are subtle and increase in intensity as the years’ advance. Common signs of age-related hearing loss include;
• Asking people to repeat themselves frequently.
• Muffled speech and sounds.
• The inability to hear speech above background noise in a social setting.
• Issues with hearing consonants in speech.
• The need to turn the TV volume to its maximum level.
• Withdrawal from conversations and verbal communication.
• Social anxiety and avoidance of social activities.
5 Common Causes of Hearing Loss
There are many reasons why you might be losing your hearing. We look at the five most common factors that influence hearing loss, as well as strategies to manage and prevent the occurrence of the condition.
1. Inner Ear Damage
Aging, exposure to loud noises, illness, and impact on the inner ear area can lead to hearing loss and deafness. Age-related hearing loss, otherwise known as “presbycusis,” typically starts in people over the age of 65-years. By the time the average American reaches 75-years old, there’s a 50-percent chance they will be dealing with some form of hearing loss.
Many Americans who work in loud noise environments, such as construction sites, machine shops, and sawmills, expose their ears to loud noises which damage the sensitive hairs found in the walls of the inner ear. These nerve cells and hairs in the cochlea direct sound signals to the brain. However, when damaged, their efficiency in sending the signals diminishes, leaving the affected individual with hearing loss.
Infection is a leading cause of hearing loss as well. Severe bacterial and viral infections can damage the nerve endings in the inner ear, leaving the affected individual with a reduction in hearing capacity. In some cases, this loss in hearing is permanent.
An impact to the side of the head, from a car accident of blow with an object, can cause damage to the delicate nerves in the ear, or the force may perforate the eardrum. In either scenario, the impact to the eardrum can take years to heal, and the affected individual will notice some degree of permanent hearing loss.
All of the reasons for the development of hearing loss typically result in a steady, gradual deterioration in hearing. While it’s impossible to reverse the process, doctors can refer you to a specialist audiologist for fitment with hearing aid devices. Most hearing devices allow the user to adjust the volume for easy management of your condition.
2. Physical Abnormalities and Hereditary Conditions
Genetics play a role in many cases of hearing loss, if your parents lost their hearing at an early age, there’s a good chance you could have to deal with the condition in the future as well. Obese and overweight people are at a higher risk of developing hearing loss due to their excessive bodyweight. Likewise, people who are living with diabetes also run the risk of developing premature hearing loss.
People who live in poor health, and suffer from the effects of high blood pressure or hypertension, are also at risk of developing the condition. Individual lifestyle choices, such as smoking may also increase the chances of you developing early onset hearing loss.
3. Earwax Buildup
Earwax comes from glands inside the ear that secrete the yellow substance. Medical science is still not entirely clear on the reason as to why we produce earwax, but it’s thought that its primary function is to trap dust and other harmful particles, preventing them from entering the inner ear and causing an infection.
Most people clean out their ears using a q-tip to remove the wax. However, in some cases, the wax can travel further down the ear canal, leading to the development of an earwax blockage. Earwax impaction causes a loss of hearing, and some people report that they find they have trouble with their balance as well.
It’s possible to treat earwax buildup by visiting your doctor for a prescription. Your physician will prescribe ear drops to dissolve the additional wax causing the impaction. The doctor may also try to flush out the earwax using a saline solution. In most cases, the impaction dissolves successfully, without any permanent loss in hearing.
Doctors recommend that people avoid the homeopathic treatment known as “candling,” where a practitioner provides the patient with a hollow beeswax candle dipped in paraffin. Claims suggest that the candle creates a vacuum that pulls the wax from the ear. However, research indicates that the candle does not create a vacuum, and the practice may further damage your hearing.
4. Ear Infection, Abnormal Bone Growths or Tumors.
Viral or bacterial infections of the ears typically occur in the middle or outer regions. In most cases, infections clear up within a few days, causing only mild discomfort to the patient. However, in some cases, severe infections lasting for long periods can lead to permanent hearing loss. Affected individuals may notice a partial or complete loss of hearing depending on the type and severity of the infection they experience, and require affordable hearing aids to regain their hearing.
5. Contributing Viral Infections and Drugs
People risk exposure to bacteria and viruses all the time. While ear infections are a leading cause of hearing loss, other infections affecting other areas of the body can also cause hearing loss and deafness in patients. Diseases such as the measles, mumps, or shingles all have the capability of creating a hearing loss that can be either temporary or permanent.
Some of the drugs used in the treatment of other conditions can cause hearing loss in patients, such as chemotherapy drugs. Exposure to other compounds, such as caffeine and nicotine can also lead to hearing loss. Smokers may find that the toxins in cigarettes damage the delicate nerve endings in the inner ear, resulting in some hearing loss.
Exposure to loud noise is a common cause of both hearing loss and tinnitus. Infections are also a common cause, as are congenital disabilities, genetics, and reaction to drugs, especially chemotherapy or medications used for cancer treatment.