Q. What causes hearing loss?
Hearing loss can be caused by several different things. The most common type, technically called presbycusis, means that aging or genetics are causing your hearing to slowly decline over time, similar to many people's experience with their eyesight.
You could also experience noise-induced hearing loss. Just like it sounds, this type of hearing loss is a result of over-exposure to loud sounds. Read more about noise-induced hearing loss here.
Some less common causes of hearing loss may be linked to high blood pressure, diabetes, medicinal reactions, and more. You should always consult your hearing healthcare provider if you think you may be experiencing hearing loss due to a medical condition.
Q. How common is hearing loss?
According to current statistics, hearing loss affects:
• 20% of adults in the U.S.
• 67% of people over age 75
• 33% of people over age 65
• 14% of people ages 45-64
• 15% of children ages 6-19
Overall, almost 36 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. That's approximately 1 in 8 people! Keep in mind that 60% of people who have hearing loss are below retirement age.
Q. What are the common symptoms of hearing loss?
• You are constantly asking people to repeat themselves
• You have difficulty while having a conversation in a noisy environment
• You often mishear words as something other than what was really said
• It seems as though many of the people in your life mumble
• People are always telling you to turn the TV down
• It’s very difficult to understand the person on the other end of the telephone
• 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.
IMPORTANT: 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 earache or feeling of intense pressure
Q. Are there different kinds of hearing loss?
Yes! There are three different types of hearing loss, as determined by where in your ear the problem lies. There are also five different degrees of hearing loss, as determined by which pitches and volumes you have trouble hearing.
Types of hearing loss:
• Conductive Hearing Loss: Sound can’t travel from the outer ear (the part you can see) to the inner ear (the part you can't see). This can often be because of wax build-up, trauma to the ear, or even ear infections. Typically, conductive hearing loss “turns the volume down” but doesn’tnecessarily affect the clarity of your hearing. Conductive hearing losses may also be corrected by medical intervention so it is always important to seek an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat physician for further consultation. Learn more about conductive hearing loss here.
• Sensorineural Hearing Loss: With sensorineural hearing loss, the problem may be damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or within the hearing nerve. Most of the time, the hair cells in the inner ear have been worn down due to aging or noise exposure, but sometimes, medications, cancer treatments or illness can create deterioration as well. With sensorineural loss, it's not just that “the volume is turned down,” but your ability to understand speech suffers too. 90% of people with hearing loss have this kind, and the most effective treatment is hearing devices! 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.
Degrees of Hearing Loss:
• Mild: With mild hearing loss, 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 conversations in group settings. People with moderate loss often have the TV turned up too loud for others’ comfort.
• Moderately Severe: At this level, hearing and understanding speech is significantly reduced. Group environments are an extreme challenge.
• Severe: With severe hearing loss, 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.
Q. How can I prevent my hearing loss from getting worse?
For the vast majority of people out there with hearing loss, it does get worse over time. There are three things you can do to slow this process down:
• Use hearing aids to address your hearing loss! If you lift weights and exercise your muscles, the nerves fire to the muscle and keep it strong. If you do not exercise your muscles, they'll weaken and atrophy. That's why it's important to use hearing aids to get past the damaged parts of your ears to stimulate the hearing nerve. This helps the clarity of your hearing stay as much intact as it can. They make the most out of the hearing ability you have left and keep your brain’s ability to recognize speech in top shape. Make an appointment here.
• Limit your noise exposure. If you work in a noisy environment or plan to attend a loud event, like a concert, then ear protection is a must. Regular earplugs provide some protection, which is better than nothing, but your EarQ provider can fit you with custom earplugs for maximum comfort and protection. On an everyday basis, turn the volume down!
• Get annual hearing tests so you can monitor your hearing health and take action as soon as any changes occur.
Read more about how to protect your ears and hearing here.
Q. Can you help me understand my hearing test results?
When an EarQ professional tests your hearing, they'll fill out a chart called an audiogram. This is a visual representation of your hearing loss illustrating which pitches you have difficulty hearing and how loud sounds need to be in order for you to hear them. Pitch is measured in Hertz (Hz), and loudness is measured in Decibels (dB).
Based on your audiogram, your EarQ professional will be able to tell the type of hearing loss you have (conductive, sensorineural, or mixed) and the degree of hearing loss, if you have normal hearing or if you have mild, moderate, moderately severe, severe or profound hearing loss. This result will determine whether or not you need a medical referral or hearing aids and, if you do, which type is right for you.
Q. Can my family practice doctor test my hearing?
The simple answer is yes. Some family practice doctors have the ability to screen your hearing at their office, which is a simple pass or fail screening, but may not be able to tell you the degree or severity of your hearing loss. They may also suggest a hearing evaluation as part of your yearly physical, although it's more likely that you'll have to request one. (According to the Center for Hearing and Communication, only about 16% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss.) Either way, if you're experiencing hearing loss, your doctor will have to refer you to a hearing healthcare provider for treatment.
If you'd prefer to make just one appointment instead of going to your doctor and then to your EarQ provider, you can come directly to us for your hearing evaluation.
Q. What are the treatment options for hearing loss?
Depending on your symptoms, if your hearing loss is caused by a blockage like a wax buildup (conductive hearing loss), then having it cleared by your hearing healthcare professional could drastically improve your hearing ability. However, the most common hearing loss originates from damage to the sensory organ and/or nerve in the inner ear (sensorineural hearing loss), and nerve damage is permanent. The good news is that 95% of sensorineural hearing loss cases can be effectively helped through the use of hearing aids. Your local hearing healthcare professional can help you find hearing aids that fit degree of hearing loss, needs, and lifestyle.
Learn more about the different types of hearing loss and their causes here.
Q. 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.
Q. Why can't I understand speech in crowded environments?
Most people lose high frequency sounds first as it is in the area of the inner ear that is most damaged due to the normal wear and tear of everyday sounds. High frequency sounds in speech are softer consonants that do not have a lot of voice, or power, behind them such as /s/, /f/, /t/, /k/, /p/. These tend to be sounds at the beginning or ending of words and may be perceived as a difference of hearing “cat” vs. “cap”. As a result, any loud or distracting noises make it difficult for you to comprehend what is being said. EarQ hearing aids feature innovative technology that reduce background noise in the tiny pauses between syllables of speech so that it’s much easier to understand a conversation in a noisy environment.
Browse our hearing aid technology.
Q. Why can't I hear women and children's voices clearly?
Similar to the reason it’s often hard for people with hearing loss to hear in crowded environments, you’re most likely experiencing these difficulties due to a hearing loss in high frequencies. Women and children have slightly higher-pitched voices than men do, so more of their speech patterns may be falling exactly within the range of your hearing loss.
Q. Is it possible to have hearing loss in only one ear?
Yes, although it’s not very common. The vast majority of people with hearing loss have a loss in both ears (bilateral loss). However, some causes of hearing loss in only one ear (unilateral loss) may be:
• Congenital or genetics
• Illness or infection
• Head or ear trauma
Some people also may have a hearing loss in one ear that is so severe with poor clarity that a conventional hearing aid will not help, but instead, will make things distorted. This is called single-sided deafness, or SSD. There are specific hearing aids that may help route sounds from the poor ear over to the good ear using Bluetooth technology. Your hearing healthcare provider will be able to identify this at your evaluation appointment and talk to you about the appropriate options. If you think you may be experiencing unilateral or bilateral loss, make an appointment with your local EarQ provider.
Q. I only miss a word or two occasionally... Do I have hearing loss?
While a small amount of hearing loss is normal, especially during the aging process, no amount of hearing loss should be taken lightly. If you’re only missing a few words here and there, you could still fall into a normal hearing range. If it’s more serious than that, though, it’s not a good idea to wait any longer to have your hearing checked. Make an appointment with your local EarQ professional if there’s any question in your mind.
Either way, it’s recommended that you get an annual hearing test, just like you have an annual physician’s checkup. This will allow you to monitor your hearing health and take action as soon as you notice any changes.
Q. Why do I hear better when I look at the speaker?
People who are generally unaware of their hearing loss will often notice that when they can see someone speak, they understand them better. Without even realizing it, you're engaging in some natural speechreading. Technically, speechreading is the process of visually detecting non-vocalized sounds (those which don't require breath behind them, like consonants) at the same time as using residual hearing and auditory cues. Therefore, your brain is using a combination of what you can hear and what you can see in order to better understand.
Q. Will my hearing loss worsen 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.
Q. Does ear wax cause hearing loss?
Absolutely. Earwax, referred to as cerumen in medical terms, can build up or become impacted and then partially or completely block your ear canal. In fact, earwax is the most common cause of conductive hearing loss. Read more here.
Your EarQ provider can quickly and easily deal with excess wax. If you’re worried that you’re 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!
Q. Is it okay to use cotton swabs to clean my ears?
Unless you're using the cotton swab to clean the very outside of your ear (the part that sticks out from your head), the answer is no.
Your ear canal is self-cleaning, and a little earwax actually helps to keep things like dirt and dust from getting to the important parts of the ear. There's a layer of tissue that lines your ear canal and grows outward at about the same pace as your hair or nails. Dirt, dust, and other unwanted things migrate out with cerumen on its own towards the outside of the ear before they can reach the area of your ear that could be damaged by them. When you use a cotton swab to clean your ear, in addition to the risk of harming the canal or eardrum, you also risk pushing the wax in further and causing more build-up and possibly impaction.
Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the cochlea in the inner ear or damage to the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of permanent hearing loss.
Note: Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL), also called sudden deafness, is a rapid loss of hearing. This can happen to a person all at once or over a period of up to three days. It should be considered a medical emergency and a patient who experiences SSHL should visit a doctor immediately. If it’s treated in a timely manner, some SSHL patients recover completely without treatment and often within the first few days. Others may get better slowly over a period of 1-2 weeks.
Causes & Risk Factors
There are several causes of sensorineural hearing loss including:
• Drugs that are toxic
• Head trauma
• Malformation of the inner ear
• Exposure to loud noise
With sensorineural hearing loss, the ability to hear sounds is reduced. In some cases, even when speech is loud enough to hear, it may still sound unclear or muffled.
Treatment options for people with sensorineural hearing loss include the use of devices like hearing aids and cochlear implants. Hearing aids can turn up the volume and also provide sound so that understanding speech is no longer as difficult. 95% of sensorineural hearing loss cases can be helped by hearing aids.
Cochlear implants, and now hybrid cochlear implants, provide direct electrical stimulation to the auditory nerve in the inner ear. Children and adults with a moderately-severe to profound hearing loss who cannot be helped by hearing aids may be candidates for cochlear implants.
According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, approximately 4,000 new cases of sensorineural hearing loss occur each year in the United States. It can affect anyone, but it typically happens to people 30-60 years of age.
If possible, sensorineural hearing loss should be addressed with hearing aids as soon as possible. This helps slow its progression. Another simple way to prevent further damage is to limit or avoid noise exposure. If you work in a noisy environment or plan on attending a concert or other event with high volume levels, then ear protection is critical!
Click here to make an appointment with your local hearing healthcare professional.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound cannot be transmitted, or conducted, throughout the hearing mechanism of the outer and middle ear to reach the inner ear.
Causes & Risk Factors
There are several causes of conductive hearing loss including:
• Buildup of earwax/impacted earwax (cerumen)
• Fluid in the middle ear from illness
• Ear infections (otitis media)
• Perforated eardrum
Conductive hearing loss usually involves a reduction in sound level, limiting your ability to hear faint sounds. It does not make sounds more difficult to understand or interrupt speech comprehension.
If the conductive loss is being caused by a blockage in the ear canal, removing it can often restore some or all hearing ability. Otherwise, this type of hearing loss can often be corrected by medical and/or surgical intervention. If medical intervention is not an option, conductive hearing loss can also be corrected by the use of hearing aids.
Keep your ears clean and dry, but don’t use cotton swabs to do so. Read more about taking care of your ears and hearing ability here.
Just like it sounds, mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss. It therefore occurs when there is damage or a blockage in the outer or middle ear as well as damage to the cochlea or auditory nerve in the inner ear.
Causes & Risk Factors
There are several causes of mixed hearing loss including:
Those for sensorineural hearing loss:
• Drugs that are toxic
• Head trauma
• Malformation of the inner ear
• Exposure to loud noise
Those for conductive hearing loss:
• Buildup of earwax/impacted earwax
• Fluid in the middle ear from illness
• Ear infections (otitis media)
• Perforated eardrum
With sensorineural hearing loss, the ability to hear sounds is reduced. Even when speech is loud enough to hear, it may still sound unclear or muffled. Conductive hearing loss usually involves only a reduction in sound level, limiting your ability to hear faint sounds but not making them more difficult to understand. Mixed hearing loss, therefore, will include symptoms from both of these types.
The conductive part of mixed hearing loss can often be corrected with medical or surgical treatment, but the sensorineural part cannot be reversed. However, hearing aids can make a big difference!
Hearing aids are particularly useful in improving hearing and speech comprehension for people with sensorineural hearing loss. When recommending a hearing aid, your hearing healthcare professional will consider your hearing ability, activity level, physical limitations, medical conditions, cosmetic preferences, and other lifestyle needs.
The simplest way to prevent further damage is to limit or avoid noise exposure and take good care of your ears.
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) affects children, teenagers, and adults who are exposed to harmful noises. It can happen after only one time of being around an intense "impulse" sound, such as an explosion, or it can occur as a result of continuous exposure to loud sounds over time. Depending on the environment and incident, a single exposure can cause a temporary decrease in hearing by damaging the hair cells in the inner ear. On occasion, the chemicals in the inner ear can add nutrients to the hair cells and repair them after a while, thereby returning hearing. However, repeated exposure to loud sounds without appropriate hearing protection can permanently damage these hair cells and cause a lasting decrease in hearing.
According to the NIDCD, approximately 1.1 billion teenagers and young adults are at risk for NIHL due to unsafe listening practices. These include the use of headphones or earbuds at damaging volumes and the failure to protect your ears at concerts, bars, and other loud places.
Causes and Risk Factors
Recreational activities that may be risk factors include target shooting and hunting, snowmobile riding, woodworking and other hobbies, playing in a band, attending rock concerts, and listening with headphones too loudly. Harmful noises at home may also come from lawnmowers, leaf blowers, and shop tools.
Damaging noise levels in work environments are also a growing concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that occupational hearing loss is the most common work-related injury in the United States. Approximately 22 million U.S. workers are exposed to hazardous noise levels at work, and an additional nine million are exposed to ototoxic chemicals. An estimated $242 million is spent annually on workers' compensation for hearing loss disability. NIOSH recommends removing hazardous noise from the workplace whenever possible and using hearing protection in situations where dangerous exposure to noise have not yet been controlled or eliminated.
When a person is exposed to loud noise, decreased hearing can occur within a single incident as well as repeated exposure over a long period of time. Sounds may become distorted or muffled, and it may be difficult to understand speech. People with noise-induced hearing loss may not even be aware of the loss, but it can be detected with a hearing test.
Excessive noise exposure can also cause tinnitus, a condition which causes you to hear a ringing or other sound when no external sound is present.
Hearing aids are almost always an appropriate way to address NIHL, and many can help manage tinnitus symptoms as well. Make an appointment with your local professional to see if hearing aids are right for you.
• Wear earplugs when noises reach dangerous levels
• Follow the 60/60 rule: When you listen to music with a personal audio device, listen at no louder than 60% volume for no more than 60 minutes a day.
• Choose over-the-ear headphones, as they don’t sit in the ear canal and as close to the eardrum.
• Take advantage of smartphone apps that monitor the volume level of your smartphone for you.
• Consider musicians’ earplugs in order to attend concerts without sacrificing sound quality.
• When you’re around loud noise, try to give your ears a break from the noise every so often.
• Give your ears time to recover. Research suggests that you need 18 hours of quiet after a night out in order to truly let your ears recuperate.
If you experience a ringing in the ears or roaring, clicking, hissing, or buzzing sounds when no external sound is present, it could be tinnitus. Tinnitus can occur in one or both ears, as well as somewhere in your head and can be soft or loud, low or high in pitch.
Experts estimate that approximately 10 percent of the adult population in the United States (22.7 million people) experience tinnitus for more than three months. According to the American Tinnitus Association, 50 million Americans experience tinnitus to some degree. For 16 million people, it is severe enough that they seek medical attention, and for 2 million people, it is very serious and impacts their ability to function on a daily basis.
Causes and Risk Factors
Tinnitus is not a disease, but rather a symptom. Tinnitus does not necessarily mean something is wrong with your ears or you have a hearing loss, but in a research study by Heller and Bergman, they found that 94% of people with normal hearing actually have tinnitus. They also proved that when you are in a quiet environment, your brain is able to pick up on soft level sounds occurring in your ear or head, but we don't notice it when we are in a noisy environment. Most people start to notice their tinnitus when the go to bed at night or early in the morning when the first wake up, when the world is at rest. If you have an untreated hearing loss, you may be able to hear your tinnitus more as you are living in a quieter world. Tinnitus can be exacerbated by increased stress levels alone, recent colds or stuffiness, untreated hearing loss, exposure to loud noises, or medicines taken for other health issues. Over 200 drugs are known to cause tinnitus, but it can also be linked to earwax blocking the ear canal or a number of other health conditions, including the following:
• Noise-induced hearing loss
• Ear and sinus infections
• Diseases of the heart or blood vessels
• Ménière's disease
• Brain tumors
• Hormonal changes in women
• Thyroid abnormalities
Symptoms include a ringing, roaring, clicking, hissing, buzzing, and even a music sound in the ears that may impact the ability to hear, work, or even sleep.
Treatment may include hearing aids, combination ear-level devices and table-top sound generator machines that provide a steady background of comfort sound to be used in sound therapy for retraining therapies, medicines, or even counseling, relaxation therapy, or biofeedback. There are even applications for smartphones or tablets that help reduce tinnitus by playing sounds that may help in the desensitization process. Other sound-generating machines in the house such as fish tanks, fans, low-volume music, and indoor waterfalls may also be helpful ways to manage tinnitus.
Browse hearing aids with tinnitus therapy
The best way to prevent an increase in bothersome tinnitus is to avoid loud noises whenever possible. If you have to shout to be heard, the environment that is probably too loud and should be avoided. You should also be sure to always take medications only as directed.
Living With Tinnitus
Living with tinnitus may be challenging at times. Ongoing noise is disruptive and affects a person's ability to hear, work, or even sleep. It is a growing problem for musicians and people in the military. According to the American Tinnitus Association, tinnitus is the number one service-connected disability for veterans from all periods of service.
If a person thinks he/she is living with bothersome tinnitus and/or sound sensitivity issues, talking with a healthcare provider that is appropriately trained in tinnitus management and sound therapies is a good place to start. Depending on the severity of tinnitus and other sound sensitivity issues that are present, other hearing healthcare providers may also be able to help using hearing aids, sound machines, medicines, and even techniques to help cope with noise are the best options to aid in management.
Additional Tinnitus Resources
Visit the American Tinnitus Association website to join their support network, read articles in their magazine, and find out more about their commitment to a cure for tinnitus. They are invested in research and the site is a terrific resource for people living with tinnitus.
Use our provider locator tool to find a hearing healthcare professional nearby who can help.
Two or three out of every 1,000 newborns in the United States is born with hearing loss. Children can also lose their hearing during childhood.
The key to managing a child’s hearing loss has everything to do with timing. The earlier it’s detected and addressed, the better the outcome. Most babies are screened in the hospital prior to discharge. If they do not pass their screening, they are referred for another screening and possibly diagnostic follow-up evaluation. It is important to identify children with hearing loss as early as possible and if appropriate, to fit hearing aids before six months of age to reduce the delay of receptive and expressive language skills. Hearing aids or other solutions are critical to helping children with hearing loss stay up to speed with language and social skills, speech comprehension, and overall development.
Newborn Hearing Screenings
Every state in America has a program for newborn hearing screenings. If a newborn baby doesn’t pass the screening, follow-up testing must be done as soon as possible to confirm the type of hearing loss and determine the best way to manage it. Children actually begin to learn speech and language in the first six months of their life, so the earlier hearing loss is detected, the sooner plans can be made to help them learn to communicate with spoken words or sign language, if necessary.
According to the FDA, approximately 38,000 American children have cochlear implants.
Cochlear implants can help children as young as 12 months of age. They are small electronic devices surgically placed behind the ear and under the skin with a direct electrode array inserted into the inner ear sensory organ. They are appropriate for those with severe or profound hearing loss or deafness. Cochlear implants work by delivering the sounds received by a microphone and directly stimulating the auditory nerve. The result in hearing is described more as an electrical sound rather than an acoustic sound such as the sounds delivered by a hearing aid.
Most recently, there are hybrid cochlear implants available for people who still have some residual hearing in the low pitches, but do not benefit from a hearing aid. The hybrid implant use a shorter electrode array that is inserted into the inner ear sensory organ as well as couples an acoustic component that sits in the canal of the ear and delivers sound acoustically like a hearing aid. These patients are able to benefit from their residual hearing and acoustic component for the lower pitches as well as compliment their hearing with the electrical component for the higher pitches from a cochlear implant.
Bone Anchored Hearing Aid
Bone anchored hearing aids (Baha) are intended to be used with people who have a conductive hearing loss or single-sided deafness (SSD). A Baha is surgically implanted with a titanium post underneath the skin behind the ear. Some Baha devices attach to a processor that is the hearing aid portion by snapping on to the titanium post over the skin (direct system), or sounds can also pass through by magnetic attraction (attract system. This small device transmits sound vibrations directly to the inner ear through the skull, avoiding the middle ear entirely. If a child has issues with hearing due to middle ear problems, a Baha may be an option. If the child is too young and the bones in the ear are not fully formed, the Baha can be used with a soft headband, thus avoiding the surgical process until better recommended.
How to Identify if Your Child Has Hearing Loss
As a parent, you may notice hearing loss in your child before anyone else does. Pay attention to your child’s reaction to loud noises and whether or not they can imitate sounds. Can they respond to voices or their name, say two-word sentences, or follow simple instructions?
You can use this checklist from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders to help monitor a baby’s progress as he or she grows. Show the checklist to the child’s doctor and begin or continue the discussion about hearing loss.
Ménière’s disease affects the inner ear and vestibular system, which is the system that helps you maintain your balance. It causes fluid build-up in the inner ear and the part of the cochlea called the organ of Corti to become swollen, leading to possible symptoms of fullness, dizziness, and fluctuating hearing loss.
Approximately 615,000 individuals have been diagnosed with Ménière's disease in the United States. Another 45,500 are newly diagnosed each year.
Causes & Risk Factors
Unfortunately, doctors don’t know what causes Ménière’s disease, and there is no cure. Researchers think that it may have to do with fluid levels in the inner ear or the closing of blood vessels, similar to what happens in people who get migraine headaches. Other researchers believe that Ménière’s disease occurs because of viral infections, allergies, or autoimmune reactions. The disease tends to run in families, so there could also be a genetic link.
Symptoms of Ménière’s disease include fluctuating hearing loss, severe dizziness, lack of balance, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), ear pain, and pressure. The disease can exist in mild or severe forms.
Treatment for people with Ménière’s disease includes devices that deliver air pulses to the middle ear and medicines to help you control dizziness and fluid retention in your body. Surgery may also be required. There is no cure for Ménière’s disease yet, but some of these treatments may alleviate symptoms.
Doctors estimate that 6 out of 10 people with Ménière’s disease will get better on their own or can control their symptoms with diet, medications, or devices. Limiting salt intake and taking water pills (diuretics) may help to reduce the amount of fluid pressure in the inner ear. Some people also limit or avoid caffeine, chocolate, alcohol, and smoking, as these things tend to make symptoms worse.
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