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Hearing Loss

Posted by Liberty Murray on November 20, 2019

Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss

It’s not always easy to tell if you’re suffering from Hearing Loss.

Common signs include:

  • difficulty hearing other people clearly, and misunderstanding what they say, especially in noisy places
  • asking people to repeat themselves
  • listening to music or watching television loudly
  • having to concentrate hard to hear what other people are saying, which can be tiring or stressful

Causes of hearing loss

Hearing loss can have many different causes. For example:

  • Sudden hearing loss in 1 ear may be due to earwax, an ear infection, a perforated (burst) eardrum or Ménière’s disease.
  • Sudden hearing loss in both ears may be due to damage from a very loud noise, or taking certain medicines that can affect hearing.
  • Gradual hearing loss in 1 ear may be due to something inside the ear, such as fluid (glue ear), a bony growth (otosclerosis) or a build-up of skin cells (cholesteatoma)
  • Gradual hearing loss in both ears is usually caused by aging or exposure to loud noises over many years.

Treatments for hearing loss
Hearing loss sometimes gets better on its own or maybe treated with medicine or a simple procedure. For example, earwax can be sucked out or softened with eardrops.

But other types – such as gradual hearing loss, which often happens as you get older – may be permanent. In these cases, treatment can help make the most of the remaining hearing. This may involve using:

  • hearing aids – several different types are available on the NHS or privately
  • implants – devices that are attached to your skull or placed deep inside your ear, if hearing aids aren’t suitable
  • different ways of communicating – such as sign language or lip reading

Preventing hearing loss
It’s not always possible to prevent hearing loss, but there are some simple things you can do to reduce the risk of damaging your hearing.

These include:

  • not having your television, radio or music on too loud
  • using headphones that block out more outside noise, instead of turning up the volume
  • wearing ear protection (such as ear defenders) if you work in a noisy environment, such as a garage workshop or a building site; special vented earplugs that allow some noise in are also available for musicians
  • using ear protection at loud concerts and other events where there are high noise levels
  • not inserting objects into your or your children’s ears – this includes fingers, cotton buds, cotton wool and tissues

Signs of hearing loss.

Hearing Loss is often a sneaky thief. It can creep up on you gradually, stealing your hearing in such small increments you suddenly find yourself straining to understand conversation and missing some of your favorite sounds.

How can you tell if you have hearing loss? Only a qualified hearing health professional can tell you for sure, but here are five signs you may not be hearing your best.

Common sounds have seemingly disappeared

Take a moment and think—when was the last time you heard birds singing or crickets chirping? Do you hear the car’s turn signal when it’s indicating? Are you having trouble hearing your wife or grandchildren when they speak?

These higher-pitched sounds and voices register at frequencies of 2,000 Hz or higher, which those with high-frequency hearing loss have trouble hearing.

Understanding conversation in crowded places is increasingly difficult

Another symptom of high-frequency hearing loss is the inability to distinguish speech in noisy environments. As a result, you may find yourself avoiding social situations like family get-together’s or impromptu celebrations with friends at local gathering places where you’re forced to concentrate on understanding the conversation.

You strain to listen—and it’s exhausting

If you find you’re straining to listen to the conversation and are more exhausted than usual at the end of the day, you may have listening fatigue Like a fading radio state or bad phone connection, you have difficulty following the conversation.

Most people are surprised to learn that hearing is a brain activity. When your auditory system is compromised, it takes a lot more effort for your brain to process the sound it receives from your inner ear. In effect, the signal is broken.

Your ears ring constantly

Both age-related hearing loss and noise-induced hearing loss can cause tinnitus, a condition also known as ringing in the ears. In these two situations, researchers believe tinnitus may be the brain’s way of filling in the missing frequencies it is no longer receiving from the auditory system.

What’s the solution?

High-frequency hearing loss is typically a type of sensorineural hearing loss, which means hair cells in the inner ear have been damaged. These hair cells are responsible for converting sounds into signals and sending them along the auditory nerve to the brain for interpretation. In addition to age, this type of hearing loss can be caused by noise, disease, infection or genetics.

Although sensorineural hearing loss isn’t curable, it can be treated with hearing aids or cochlear implants. Diagnosis and treatment are important because the untreated hearing loss has been linked to mental health conditions such as anger, depression, anxiety, isolation, frustration, loneliness, and decreased cognitive function.

 

How do headphones cause hearing loss?

Using headphones or earbuds for too long, too loudly, or too often can destroy the parts of the ear vital to healthy hearing. In each ear, there are about 18,000 cilia, which are tiny hair cells that transmit sound. Those microscopic hair cells are an integral part of the process that sends an electrical signal to the brain, which then translates to a recognizable sound.

Why are earbuds particularly dangerous to hear?

They are essentially tiny speakers that funnel music straight into the ear canal. Yet most earbuds are low quality, incapable of blocking out ambient noise. They also tend to transmit bass poorly. Both of these factors lead listeners to turn up the volume even more.

Outside-the-ear headphones are a better option, as unlike earbuds that deliver music directly into the ear, they provide somewhat of a buffering space between the music and the ear canal. However — although headphones are a safer choice than earbuds when it comes to hearing — they are not without their drawbacks.

Like earbuds, most headphones are of low or mediocre quality and do not transmit the bass efficiently. It is worth investing in better quality headphones to improve your listening experience and protect your hearing.

Safer alternatives to prevent hearing loss from headphones

Two different kinds of headphones are available that can not only help block out ambient noise but can protect your hearing as well by allowing you to hear your music at safer levels. One option is noise-canceling headphones, which work by using inverse waves to cancel out the incoming sound. They work best at canceling out low-frequency sounds, like the hum of an engine or the rumble of traffic, but not as well as canceling out higher frequency sounds like the sound of conversation. Another option is noise-isolating headphones; they work a bit differently, by creating a seal around the ear that creates a physical barrier between the ear and the outside noise.

SMOKING

Smoking is a well-established risk factor for hearing loss. Studies have shown that time and again exposure to cigarette smoke–whether directly, secondhand, or even in utero–can have a big impact on a person’s hearing health.

How does smoking affect hearing?

Both nicotine and carbon monoxide lower oxygen blood levels and constrict blood vessels all over your body–including those in your inner ear responsible for maintaining hair cell health. Also, nicotine and cigarette smoke are thought to:

  • interfere with neurotransmitters in the auditory nerve, which are responsible for telling the brain which sound you are hearing.
  • irritate the Eustachian tube and lining of the middle ear.
  • trigger the release of free radicals that can damage DNA and cause disease.
  • make you more sensitive to loud noises and therefore more susceptible to developing noise-induced hearing loss.

Is smoking linked to ear infections?

Yes, for both adults and kids. The cause is two-fold: Smoking weakens the immune system and it damages tissues in the nose and throat, making them more susceptible to infections that affect the ears, too.

 

Emotional effects of untreated hearing loss~

The psychological effects of untreated hearing loss for both children and adults can include increased outbursts of anger, low self-confidence, frustration, embarrassment, and depression. Adults may experience periods of sadness and grieving as their ability to hear diminishes. They also may feel more fatigued, as the struggle to hear and understand can be physically exhausting.

When left untreated, hearing loss can affect:

  • Communication – Adults with hearing loss have difficulty participating fully in conversations at work, home and in social situations. Children with hearing loss, especially those younger than six months, have difficulty learning important language skills that normal hearing children learn by listening to the language spoken by family members.
  • Social interaction – Hearing loss progresses slowly and, over time, people who have it tend to begin withdrawing from social situations that prove too challenging.
  • Income – According to a study, untreated hearing loss affects productivity, performance and career success. When hardworking professionals feel the lack of confidence that can come from not being able to contribute during meetings, hear the important instructions from the boss or understand all that was said on a phone conference, it can lead to feelings of insecurity. These feelings can prevent you from realizing your true potential on the job.
  • Family relationships – Children with hearing loss may have trouble articulating their feelings, which makes communication frustrating for family members. Adults may feel they aren’t being heard and become isolated and depressed. Family members who have loved ones with untreated hearing loss say they sometimes experience feelings of frustration, annoyance, and sadness. All of these put a strain on the family.

Hearing loss is a well-understood medical condition for which solutions have existed for years. Treating your hearing loss begins with a comprehensive test to determine how severe the loss is and what type. Unless you have the type of hearing loss that can be treated medically, hearing aids are often the best solution.

Driving safely

Before you go…

  • Maintain your hearing aids. Feedback from hearing aids is a major distraction. Visit your hearing care practitioner regularly, for check-ups and cleanings. Tell them if you’re experiencing feedback or other concerns.
  • Be sure that your hearing aid batteries are fresh. We recommend that hearing aid wearers always carry a spare set of batteries along when leaving the house. If your batteries begin to signal that they are low while you’re driving, do not attempt to change them while the vehicle is in motion. Instead, pull over to a safe area and change them.

While driving, reduce the volume on the car radio and ask passengers to keep conversation noise to a minimum. Today’s vehicles are built to reduce road noise, which is good news for those with hearing loss. Anytime you can reduce the variety of noises competing for your attention, the better you’ll be able to hear the ones you need to.

Whether you hear well or have some degree of hearing loss, driving comes with a lot of responsibility. That means anytime you improve your driving skills, you reduce the risk of becoming an accident statistic and help make our roads safer. Reduce distractions and rely on visual clues.

 

What can you do about hearing loss and heart health?

You may be thinking you have to completely change your lifestyle to protect your heart along with your hearing. But don’t worry. Even making a few small changes here and there can make a difference. Here are some simple ways to protect your heart and your ears at the same time:

  • Eat a healthy diet, including more fish: Tuna, herring, and salmon contain omega-3 fatty acids which lower risk of hearing loss and promote heart health by decreasing the chance of heart-related medical conditions and arterial plaque buildup.
  • Exercise: Exercise reduces obesity, improves heart health, decreases blood pressure, lowers cholesterol levels and reduces stress.
  • Stop smoking
  • Cut back on alcohol consumption
  • Get more sleep
  • Take frequent breaks during work to reduce stress

Hearing Loss & Dementia

Over the last few years, there is growing evidence of a link between dementia/cognition and hearing loss. Hearing loss and dementia are linked with aging and often occur together as we get older. The majority of people with dementia are over 70 and nearly three-quarters of people over 70 have hearing loss. There is strong evidence that mild hearing loss doubles the risk of developing dementia, with moderate hearing loss leading to three times the risk, and severe hearing loss five times the risk. Hearing loss can be misdiagnosed as dementia or make the symptoms of dementia appear worse.

Common symptoms of hearing loss:

  • Difficulty hearing other people clearly and misunderstanding what they say, especially in group situations
  • Asking people to repeat themselves and/or speak more slowly
  • Having the volume for music/TV higher than other people need
  • Difficulty hearing the phone/doorbell
  • Finding it difficult to tell which direction noise is coming from
  • Often feeling tired or stressed, from having to concentrate while listening.

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