Hearing Loss FAQs
What causes hearing loss?
We’ve all experienced a cold where the congestion affected your ability to hear, or a concert that left everything sounding muffled for a day or two. For the most part, that hearing loss is temporary and should not overly concern you. Permanent hearing loss is also caused by:
- Extended periods of noise exposure
- Adverse drug reactions
- Certain chemotherapy and radiation treatments
- Certain ototoxic antibiotics
- Head trauma
- Certain medical conditions
- Earwax buildup
These causes are all reasons to make an appointment with an EarQ provider. Permanent hearing loss is typically more subtle and occurs over long periods of time, so listen when your friends and family tell you to get your hearing checked. It may be more noticeable to them than it is to you.
There are two primary types of hearing loss causes.
The first type is a technical term called presbycusis. What this means is aging and genetics are playing a role and your hearing is slowly declining over time, similar to many people’s experience with their eyesight.
The second type is called noise-induced hearing loss. Just like it sounds, this hearing loss is a result of extended periods of noise exposure. For example, someone who drove an 18-wheeler for 30 years may suffer from noise-induced hearing loss due to the tiny hair cells in his inner ear being damaged repeatedly by the noise associated with that profession.
There are other less common causes of hearing loss such as high blood pressure, diabetes, medicinal reactions, etc. You should always consult your hearing healthcare provider if you have concerns that you may be experiencing hearing loss due to a medical condition.
How common is hearing loss?
Almost 36 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. That’s approximately 1 in 8 people! Keep in mind that 60% of those people who have hearing loss, believe it or not, are below retirement age.
What are the common symptoms of hearing loss?
Everyone has a different lifestyle, so you may notice your hearing loss in different ways. Most of the time, however, these are what people with hearing loss typically experience:
- You’re having a conversation with someone in a crowded room and you’re only able to catch every fourth or fifth word.
- You have a lot of awkward moments where you confuse one word for another.
- You’re constantly getting frustrated with people mumbling.
- People are always telling you to turn the TV down.
- You dread telephone conversations because you can barely understand what they’re saying on the other end.
- It’s been a while since you remember hearing the sound of the wind or birds chirping – ambient sounds.
- You have a constant annoying ringing or buzzing in your ears.
- MOST IMPORTANTLY – friends and family members have asked you to get your hearing checked. They will often notice a problem before you do.
DISCLAIMER: If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms, seek medical attention as soon as possible:
- Sudden hearing loss
- Blood or fluid draining from your ears
- Sudden onset of dizziness
- Fluctuating hearing loss
- Head trauma
- Severe ear ache or feeling of intense pressure
Are there different kinds of hearing loss?
Yes! There are different kinds of hearing loss. Essentially, the three types of hearing loss are separated by the portion of the ear that the problem resides in:
Conductive Hearing Loss: For conductive loss, the problem happens when sound isn’t making it from the outer ear (the part you can see) to the inner ear (the part you can’t see). This can be because of wax buildup (your hearing healthcare provider can help with that), trauma to the ear, or even ear infections. Typically, people who experience conductive loss are experiencing the volume being turned down, not issues with their ability to understand. Learn more about conductive hearing loss here.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Sensorineural hearing loss is a complicated way of saying that the problem lies in the hearing nerve. Most of the time, this nerve has deteriorated because of aging or noise-exposure. Sometimes cancer treatments or illness can create some deterioration as well. With sensorineural loss, it’s not just that the volume is turned way down, but that your ability to understand speech suffers too. 90% of people with hearing loss have this kind, and the most effective treatment is hearing devices! They will turn up the volume, and also provide crystal clear speech sound so understanding is never a problem. Learn more about sensorineural hearing loss here.
Mixed Hearing Loss: Just like it sounds, this type of hearing loss is a mixture of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Learn more about mixed hearing loss here.
How can I prevent my hearing loss from getting worse?
First, if you can identify that you might even have some hearing loss, get your hearing checked to be sure. On average it takes someone experiencing hearing loss 7-10 years before they make the decision to visit a hearing healthcare provider, and that’s a lot of time to waste. If you have a hearing evaluation and are experiencing very mild hearing loss, your EarQ provider will discuss options on how to prevent any further damage.
The simplest way, however, is to limit your noise exposure. If you work in a noisy atmosphere or plan on attending an event that will have high volume levels (like a concert), then ear protection is a must. Your EarQ provider can provide custom ear plugs for maximum comfort. On an everyday basis, turn the volume down!
To find a hearing healthcare provider near you, click here.
I don't understand my hearing test results
When an EarQ provider tests your hearing, they’ll fill out a chart called an audiogram. The audiogram is a visual representation of your hearing loss.The audiogram illustrates the pitches (high pitched to low pitched) that you have difficulty hearing, and how loud sound needs to be for you to pick up on it. Pitch is measured in Hertz, loudness is measured in Decibels. Based on where your hearing falls on the audiogram, your hearing loss will be categorized into normal, mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe or profound. The category you fall in will determine the type of hearing instrument that will work the best for you.
Can my family practice doctor test my hearing?
The simple answer is, of course you can. Some family practice doctors even make a hearing evaluation part of a yearly physical. However, if you are experiencing hearing loss, your doctor will have to refer you to a hearing healthcare provider for treatment. If you’d prefer making one appointment instead of going to your doctor then to your EarQ provider, you can come directly to us for your hearing evaluation.
What are the degrees of hearing loss?
The degree of hearing loss is determined during your hearing evaluation, and the results are shown in an audiogram. Your hearing evaluation rates the highness or lowness in pitch that is difficult for you to hear, and how loud sounds have to be before you can pick up on them. Based on that, your EarQ provider will figure out your degree of hearing loss.
The different levels of hearing loss are:
Mild: This means that you may have some trouble hearing conversations in a noisy room or when someone is speaking quietly. In quiet environments, mild hearing loss is manageable.
Moderate: This degree of hearing loss makes it even harder to hear conversation in group settings. People with moderate loss are those that have the TV and radio turned up too loud for comfort.
Moderately Severe: Hearing and understanding speech is significantly reduced at this level and group environments are an extreme challenge.
Severe: This degree of hearing loss means that normal conversation is not audible. Even shouting can be challenging to comprehend.
Profound: This is the greatest degree of hearing loss. Only the loudest sounds are audible and even shouting may not be heard at all.
Why can't I understand speech in crowded environments?
Most speaking voices are in the mid-to-high frequency range of sound, which coincidentally is the range that goes first. A result of hearing loss in this range is that any loud or distracting noises are going to make it harder for you to comprehend what is being said. EarQ hearing aids feature innovative technology that has the ability to reduce background noise in the tiny pauses between syllables of speech, making it much easier to understand a conversation in a noisy environment.
Why can't I hear women and children's voices clearly?
The problem here is similar to the situation where you can’t hear conversations in a noisy environment. It’s most likely due to experiencing some hearing loss in high frequencies. Women and children have higher pitched voices than men, so a lot of their speech may be falling right in the range of your hearing loss.
Is it possible to have hearing loss in only one ear?
If the most common cause of hearing loss is overexposure to loud noise, then it doesn’t make sense that only one ear would have hearing loss. Most of the time, the answer is yes. But sometimes unilateral loss, or hearing loss in one ear while the other ear has normal hearing can occur. Some causes of unilateral loss may be:
- Illness or infection
- Head or ear trauma
If you think you may be experiencing unilateral loss, make an appointment with your local EarQ provider.
I only miss a word or two occasionally... Do I have hearing loss?
Yes and no. A small amount of hearing loss is pretty normal, especially during the aging process. And of course the time when people are going to be more aware of difficulty hearing is during conversation. It could be that you still fall in the normal range of hearing loss. But if it is more serious than that, waiting to have your hearing checked is extremely counterproductive. Without being aware of it, you could become more socially isolated and find yourself getting frustrated all the time. The simple answer is that if there is any question, you should visit an EarQ provider and have your hearing checked. One simple examination can ease your mind, either way.
I can't hear high-pitched sounds well. Can hearing aids help?
While each and every hearing loss experience is unique – namely, how it affects your life – high frequency hearing loss makes up the vast majority of those with loss today. Many people can hear lower tones with no difficulty, but when it gets high pitched, they lose it.
Hearing instrument developers specifically address high frequency hearing loss. Since these tones are the ones that contribute to hearing and comprehending speech, especially in noisy environments.
While no one can promise that every pitch or tone will be restored by hearing devices, we can assure you that it will improve. There is even a specific style of hearing instrument designed with high frequency loss in mind. By visiting an EarQ provider and having your hearing checked, you will be offered a range of devices that are ideal for your needs.
Why do I hear better when I look at the speaker?
Without even realizing it, you are engaging in some natural lipreading. When a person is speaking, there are vocalized sounds and non-vocalized sounds. Vocalized sounds require a combination of air passing through the vocal cords and mouth shapes. Non-vocalized sounds are created strictly from mouth shapes. Vowels are vocalized, consonants are non-vocalized. When a person is speaking, the quietest sounds (consonants, non-vocalized) are the ones that are actually easier to visually detect. Lipreading is the process of visually detecting non-vocalized sounds. Often people who are generally unaware of their hearing loss will notice that when they can see someone speak, they understand them better. A combination of what you can hear and what you can see is contributing to better understanding!
Will my hearing loss get worse over time?
It really depends on the type of hearing loss you’re experiencing. For the vast majority of people out there with hearing loss, it will get worse with time. Whether you have hearing loss from continued noise exposure or it’s simply a combination of aging and genetics, time is not on your side. This is why it’s important to visit an EarQ provider at your earliest convenience and treat hearing loss you may be experiencing.
Does ear wax cause hearing loss?
Absolutely. Earwax, referred to in the industry as cerumen, could definitely create some hearing loss. It can build up or become impacted and actually get to the point where it partially or completely blocks your ear canal. Your EarQ provider can quickly and easily deal with the issue. If you are worried that you are producing too much earwax and it’s affecting your hearing ability, make an appointment.
*Note – the use of cotton swabs to clean your ear canals is NOT recommended by hearing healthcare professionals. It can actually be the cause of earwax buildup.