What Types of Hearing Loss are Treatable?

Living with Hearing Loss

Hearing fully requires both volume and comprehension. Hearing loss usually begins with a reduction in volume, and then progresses causing the listener stress in trying to understand normal conversations. Untreated, cognitive decline can lead to social withdrawal as people avoid difficult hearing situations, followed by depression as daily interaction becomes harder.

If your hearing is normal, you can easily simulate what happens by gently plugging your ears with your fingers. This creates approximately 25 decibels of volume loss, and a plugged-up sensation. See how much more difficult hearing conversation becomes? Even a mild loss can be irritating.

While not all hearing loss is preventable, we can help prevent it from dictating your future. Identifying different types of loss allows proper treatment. What are common hearing loss causes? Most hearing losses fall into one of two categories: conductive, or sensorineural. Let’s explore hearing loss causes in simpler terms.

Conductive Hearing Loss: Not getting through

When sound can’t reach the inner ear, the diagnosis is conductive hearing loss. There are many possible reasons:

  • A blockage, such as too much earwax, or a foreign object in the ear canal.
  • An injury, perhaps causing a perforated ear drum.
  • An infection in the middle ear, causing fluid build-up.
  • Disease or damage to the small middle ear bones.

Someone experiencing conductive loss often feels plugged up. Their own voice may sound odd, and they may speak more softly than usual. Chewing foods may interfere with hearing. In severe cases, there may be a throbbing sensation with pain.

With a careful hearing evaluation, an audiologist may determine you are experiencing conductive hearing loss. They may refer you to an ENT (ear-nose-throat) physician for further diagnosis and treatment. The good news is if there is no irreparable damage to ear structures or nerves, the problem can often be corrected medically or surgically.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Less response

Much more common are problems in the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss happens when the tiny hairs in the inner ear don’t respond to sound as fully as they should. This can be due to age, prolonged exposure to loud noise, or issues with blood circulation or nerves in the ear.

Age-related hearing loss shows up as reduced volume at higher frequencies, and more difficulty hearing in noise. Sounds such as consonants and sibilants such as “sh” are difficult to discern. A comprehensive hearing evaluation by an audiologist can reveal how severe the hearing loss is, and determine a prescription to correct it.

How We Treat Hearing Loss

A full hearing evaluation includes physical examination of your ears, a consultation with you and if possible your family members, and a computerized hearing test. A physical exam can rule out short term hearing issues such as an ear infection, or other conditions that may need to be evaluated by an ENT. Your answers during consultation help us understand how long your hearing has been affected, if it is worsening, what situations give you the most trouble, and more. Then, a computerized hearing test shows how hearing aids should selected and programmed to respond.

We also want to understand factors in your lifestyle to determine which style of hearing aids would be most appropriate. For example, are you home all day, or do you work outside the home? If you have arthritis, are rechargeable hearing aids a better choice than one with small, replaceable batteries? Which type of hearing aid is easiest for you to put on? Are you a smartphone user, and would a hearing aid with smartphone wireless connectivity help?

Once we decide together which hearing aids would work best for you, we can do a fitting. We take an exact mold of your ear canal with soft, non-stick silicone, which is then used to create a custom earpiece for some styles of hearing aids. A comfortable hearing aid can be worn all day, and does not have gaps which may cause whistling.

The purpose of hearing aids is to reduce the stress in listening, and allow you to engage with people around you more easily. When your fitted hearing aids are ready, we will usually start with them programmed at a percentage of your prescription. This keeps your brain from overloading with new sounds – and you’ll definitely be noticing many more sounds right away.

A period of adjustments is typically needed over several weeks, tuning programming to best help you in the environments you spend time in. Many digital hearing aids have downloadable logs we can read electronically to understand how they are responding. As your cognition improves over weeks and months, your prescription can be turned up until you are at full hearing again.

Get the Latest Technology

At Southern Medical Hearing Centers, we want you to enjoy a lifetime of sound. 90% of age-related hearing loss is treatable with the latest hearing aid technology, properly fitted and programmed. If you are a first-time hearing aid candidate, or your hearing aids are more than five years old, we’d like to see you to evaluate your current hearing and fit you for the latest hearing aids.

Are you ready for better hearing?

See us for an evaluation, new hearing aids, or a tune-up.