Hearing loss effects millions of people worldwide. In Australia the statistics suggest that about 1 in every 6 people have some form of hearing loss. Hearing loss is a general term that describes some level of inability to hear. Hearing loss can be the result of a number of different causes.
Types of hearing loss:
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL) – This is the most common form of hearing loss, with a number of different causes. Sensorineural hearing loss refers to the loss of hair cell function within the cochlea. The cochlea’s primary role is to convert sound from a mechanical vibration into a neural signal that is sent to the brain by the auditory nerve. Ageing is the most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss, however there are other causes, such as viral infection, ototoxic medication, congenital loss, ruptured cochlea, VIII nerve tumours, Menieres disease and high level noise exposure. While noise induced hearing loss has lessened with greater regulatory control in the workplace, leisure based noise induced hearing loss could see an increase over the next few years with the advent of MP3 players and the like.
- Conductive Hearing Loss refers to hearing loss which is caused by the inhibition of sound travelling through the outer and middle ear. Again, as with SNHL, there are a number of causes. Ear infection (outer or middle ear), exotoses (advanced swimmers ear), ruptured ear drum, ossicular chain disruption or fixation, cholesteatoma, otosclerosis, traumatic insult to the ear, wax, foreign bodies, abnormal development of the ear canal, or even post surgical outcomes.
- Mixed hearing loss describes a hearing loss that has both a sensorineural component and a conductive component.
Signs & Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of hearing loss can vary immensely. For most people there are a number of common complaints regarding their hearing. It is common for the person with hearing loss to report the following:
- “People don’t speak clearly anymore” – not all of the speech is heard clearly
- “If only they would look at me when they are talking to me” – the need for visual queues
- “Family tell me the TV is too loud – they tell me the whole street can hear my TV”
- “I often reply with the wrong answer. I’ll say yes, when the answer should have been no”
- “I avoid conversations so I don’t make a mistake”
- “I rely on my partner to fill-me-in later”
- “I just smile and nod and hope that was right!”
- “I don’t hear the blinkers on the car going – my wife tells me to turn them off”
- “My Grandkids are beautiful, but I just can’t understand what they are saying….”
- “I can hear a ringing or buzzing sound in my ear/ears.”
- “Why can I hear background noise, but I can’t hear conversation?”
- “I have stopped going to places, because I just can’t hear”
- “I am fighting with my wife now, more than ever. She just won’t look at me when she is speaking”
- “My ears feel blocked”
- “Discharge comes from my ears”