Hearing loss is a common condition affecting 25 percent of people between the ages of 65 and 75 and up to 75 percent of people over the age of 75. Hearing loss can come on suddenly or gradually and ranges from mild to severe. Most often caused by aging, hearing loss is often treatable and in some cases reversible. Common symptoms included muffled hearing, not understanding what people are saying, or a feeling of obstruction in the ear.
Exposure to excessively loud noise is another common cause of hearing loss. When hearing loss is noise induced it is a gradual loss and can affect people of all ages and is due to long-term exposure to loud noise. When hearing loss is age related it is due to changes in the inner ear or cochlea. Blockages in the ear from wax build up, foreign bodies, injury, or infection can also contribute to hearing loss.
Doctors and hearing specialists have a variety of tests available to diagnose hearing loss and can advise on the best treatment to restore or repair your hearing.
In some cases, individuals are born with a reduced capacity for processing sensory information. Far more common, however, is hearing loss that occurs gradually. For some, hearing loss is the result of sudden loud auditory inputs, such as explosions or gunfire. Others experience hearing loss after years of sensory input that is louder than necessary, such as listening to loud music or being exposed to loud noises in the work environment. Yet another cause for hearing loss is age, where the structures of the inner ear are altered over the course of time. Less common causes of hearing loss involve obstructions in the ear canal or damage to the inner ear resulting from traumatic injury or infection.
The first step in improving the patient's ability to hear involves a comprehensive assessment of their current auditory health. A physical exam and various diagnostic tools help physicians determine the full extent of hearing loss as well as identify the underlying cause of the condition. Next, a course of action is determined. Some patients are able to regain normal hearing through treatments that reduce or eliminate accumulated earwax, or through the use of antibiotic medications to cure infection. For others, hearing loss is best addressed through the use of a hearing aid. Today's hearing aid technology has far exceeded that of decades past, and many individuals are able to achieve dramatically improved hearing through the use of a custom fitted and carefully calibrated assistive device.
The biggest mistake that many people make in regard to their hearing is to delay seeking treatment until hearing loss has reached an advanced stage. Hearing impairment treatment options have become very advanced, and individuals can attain a significant improvement in their overall enjoyment of life by seeking treatment as soon as they notice significant hearing loss. Friends and family are critical in this process, as they are often the first to notice that a loved one is experiencing significant hearing loss.