Approximately 30 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. In fact, hearing loss is one of the most common health issues in adults. There are three types of hearing loss; conductive, sensorineural, and mixed.
Conductive Hearing Loss: Hearing loss caused by a blockage in the middle ear that inhibits sound from passing to the inner ear. A conductive hearing loss is typically treated medically or surgically. Some possible causes of a conductive hearing loss include; fluid in the middle ear, hole in the eardrum, ear wax, swimmer's ear, or malformation of the outer or middle ear.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Permanent hearing loss caused by damage to the inner ear. This type of hearing loss cannot be medically or surgically corrected however, it typically can be treated with hearing aids. Some possible causes of sensorineural hearing loss include; genetics, noise exposure, aging, malformation of the inner ear, or ototoxic medications.
Mixed Hearing Loss: Conductive hearing loss in conjunction with a sensorineural hearing loss.
Hearing loss typically occurs gradually over the years so it is not uncommon for family and friends to notice a concern regarding a loved one's hearing before they do. Untreated hearing loss can lead to irritability, anger, fatigue, stress, avoidance or withdrawal from social situations, impaired memory function, and reduced job performance.
Why Don’t Hearing Aids Cure Hearing Loss?
When someone with a vision problem uses eyeglasses, usually the vision problems are virtually eliminated. But when someone with a hearing loss uses hearing aids, the hearing problems, though significantly reduced, are not completely eliminated (they don’t “cure” hearing loss).
This is because of the nature of the damage. Sensorineural hearing loss is for the ears what macular degeneration is for the eyes: decline in the neural function of the sensory organ. Damaged Inner Ear Cells Most people with hearing loss have an inner ear (sensorineural) hearing loss. The inner ear’s sensory cells are damaged, or simply no longer present. This may be due to noise, aging, an inherited hearing loss, or a combination of other factors. As a result, some sounds are not heard, while others may be distorted.
Someone with moderate sensorineural hearing loss might have only 10,000 inner ear cells working properly, compared to the 15,000-20,000 cells present in the normal hearing ear. Someone with a severe loss might have only 5,000 cells. If inner ear cells are damaged or missing, you might not hear some sounds at all. Other sounds, even when you hear them, may be distorted. As a result, you may not be able to tell the difference between “pin” and “thin”, even if these words are made loud enough for you to hear.
Hearing Aids Help:
Someone with a severe sensorineural hearing loss might not understand any speech without amplification. With hearing aids, this person might increase his or her speech understanding to perhaps 60%, which is a tremendous improvement. With hearing aids, this person can now hear fairly well, but it’s important to remember that normal hearing has not been restored.
A person with only a moderate loss might understand as much as 85% of speech with hearing aids. But no matter how loudly speech is amplified, even this person’s hearing difficulties will not be eliminated completely. Because of dramatic improvements in hearing aid technology, today’s hearing aids can do an excellent job of compensating for hearing distortion.
We may not be able to cure hearing loss or restore normal hearing, but most people who use hearing aids today are able to hear surprisingly well in spite of significant hearing loss.