Hearing Loss

Common Myths About Hearing Loss

There are some common myths about hearing loss that sometimes confuse people. See if any of these sound familiar:

  • “Hearing loss only affects “old people” and is just a sign of aging.” The truth is actually the reverse of what most people think. The majority (65%) of people with hearing loss are younger than age 65. There are more than six million people in the U.S. between the ages of 18 and 44 with hearing loss, and nearly one and a half million are school age. So hearing loss affects all age groups.
  • “If I had a hearing loss, my family doctor would have told me.” This is not true. Only 13% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss during a physical. Since most people with hearing impairments hear well in a quiet environment like a doctor’s office, it can be virtually impossible for your physician to recognize the extent of your problem. Without special training and an understanding of the nature of hearing loss, it may be difficult for your doctor to even realize that you have a hearing problem.
  • “I’ll just have some minor surgery like my friend did, and then my hearing will be okay.” Many people know someone whose hearing improved after medical or surgical treatment. It’s true that some types of hearing loss can be successfully treated. With adults, unfortunately, this only applies to 5-10% of cases.
  • “Your hearing loss cannot be helped.” In the past, many people with hearing loss in one ear, with a high frequency hearing loss, or with nerve damage have been told they cannot be helped, sometimes by their family practice physician. While this might have been true many years ago, with modern advances in technology, nearly 95% of people with a sensorineural hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids.
  • “The consequences of hiding hearing loss are better than wearing hearing aids.” What price are you paying for vanity? Untreated hearing loss is far more noticeable than hearing aids. If you miss a punch line to a joke, or respond inappropriately in conversation, people may have concerns about your mental acuity, your attention span, or your ability to communicate effectively. The personal consequences of vanity can be life altering. At a simplistic level, untreated hearing loss means giving up some of the pleasant sounds you used to enjoy. At a deeper level, vanity could severely reduce your quality of life.
  • “Hearing aids will make me look ‘older’ and ‘handicapped.’” Looking older is clearly more affected by almost all other factors besides hearing aids. It is not the hearing aids that make one look older, it is what one may believe they imply. If hearing aids help you function like a normal hearing person, for all intents and purposes the stigma is removed. Keep in mind that an untreated hearing loss is more obvious than a hearing aid. Smiling and nodding your head when you don’t understand what’s being said makes your condition more apparent than a hearing aid.

Anatomy of Hearing Loss (Click below to view movie)

This 1-minute video gives a quick overview of the anatomy of hearing, and the causes and types of hearing loss. It uses animation to help you understand how you hear, and what may be happening when your hearing is no longer top-notch.

Types of Hearing Loss

In general, there are two types of hearing loss: conductive and sensorineural. A combination of both is seen as a mixed hearing loss.

Karen Scott Audiology can help you with any of these types of hearing conditions.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

The signs of hearing loss can be subtle, and may emerge slowly. Or they can be significant and come on suddenly. Either way, there are common indications that you should be aware of. You should suspect hearing loss if you experience any of the signs below.

  • Social Symptoms
    • Require frequent repetition
    • Have difficulty following conversations involving more than 2 people
    • Think that other people sound muffled or like they’re mumbling
    • Have difficulty hearing in noisy situations, like conferences, restaurants, malls, or crowded meeting rooms
    • Have trouble hearing children and women
    • Have your TV or radio turned up to a high volume
    • Answer or respond inappropriately in conversations
    • Have ringing in your ears
    • Read lips or more intently watch people’s faces when they speak to you
  • Emotional Symptoms
    • Feel stressed out from straining to hear what others are saying
    • Feel annoyed at other people because you can’t hear or understand them
    • Feel embarrassed to meet new people or from misunderstanding what others are saying
    • Feel nervous about trying to hear and understand
    • Withdraw from social situations that you once enjoyed because of difficulty hearing
  • Medical Symptoms
    • Have a family history of hearing loss
    • Take medications that can harm the hearing system (ototoxic drugs)
    • Have diabetes, heart, circulation or thyroid problems
    • Have been exposed to very loud sounds over a long period or single exposure to explosive noise

Diagram of ear anatomy

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss is caused by any condition or disease that blocks or impedes the movement of sound through the outer or middle ear. The result is that sound intensity (loudness) reaching the cochlea is reduced. Causes can include:

  • Infections with swelling that shuts the ear canal
  • Blockage by wax
  • Foreign bodies in the ear
  • An injury
  • Birth defects
  • A growth in the ear canal

Generally, we can treat the cause of a patient’s conductive hearing loss, giving them complete or partial improvement in hearing.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss results from inner ear or auditory nerve dysfunction. Often, the cause cannot be determined. It is typically irreversible and permanent. It also reduces the intensity of sound, but may also result in a lack of clarity even when sounds, particularly speech, are loud enough. We can treat patients with sensorineural hearing loss with amplification through hearing aids.

Mixed Hearing Loss

A mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and a sensorineural hearing loss in the same ear. Hearing aids can be beneficial for patients with mixed hearing loss.