Hearing loss is a progressive disorder defined as partial or total loss of hearing in one or both ears. It is a common condition that can be congenital (present at birth) or develop over time for many different reasons. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that hearing loss is the third most common chronic physical condition affecting Americans each year, whether it be due to occupational noise hazards or other causes.
As you age, you develop an increased risk of experiencing some degree of hearing loss as you have likely been exposed to many more things that can damage your ears. Though we subconsciously rely on hearing to lead an unaffected life, many people only get their ears checked when a problem arises.
Whether you are experiencing hearing problems or not, you should receive a hearing screening at least every 10 years through adulthood, and a hearing test at 50 is strongly recommended.
Signs Of Hearing Loss
Common signs of hearing problems include:
Sensitivity to sounds
Ringing in one or both ears
Experiencing difficulty understanding what people are saying, especially with loud background noises present
A delay of speech in children
Feeling the need to ask people to repeat themselves or turn the volume up higher
Though signs of hearing loss often develop slowly over time, exposure to certain events may result in sudden hearing loss.
Causes Of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is a serious condition that may occur suddenly due to injury or may develop slowly over time.
Common causes of loss of hearing include:
Damage to the middle or inner ear
An excessive buildup of earwax
The ruptured eardrum, also called tympanic membrane perforation
Ototoxicity. Certain medications like loop diuretics, aminoglycoside antibiotics, or too much aspirin have the potential to damage the ear leaving you to experience ringing in the ears, balance problems, or hearing loss.
Recurring or untreated ear infections
Exposure to loud noises
The ear is composed of many small, crucial cells and parts that must work together seamlessly to allow us to hear clearly what others around us are saying. When one or more of these parts becomes damaged or experiences cellular death, we are at an increased risk of developing hearing loss.
The inner ear houses cochlear hair cells responsible for turning the mechanical signals of speech into electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain for interpretation. When these hair cells experience damage or die, they cannot be restored or regrown.
As you age, the cochlear hair cells experience damage as a result of changes to the ear through growth, repeated exposure to loud noises, and improper use of ear cleaning devices.
The Difference Between Hearing Screening And A Hearing Test
A hearing screening is an examination of your hearing, often scored as a pass or fail, to determine if further evaluation by an audiologist is needed. When a baby is born, they receive a hearing screening within 48 hours to evaluate the presence of abnormalities and determine a baseline of hearing.
Oftentimes, your primary care physician can conduct a hearing screening during your yearly visit. However, if you’re considered to have failed, you’ll be referred to an audiologist for more extensive hearing tests.
Various hearing tests will be performed to determine the pitch and loudness of sounds you can hear vs where you are experiencing difficulty.
Reasons To Get A Hearing Test Or Screening At Age 50
As previously mentioned, a newborn hearing screen is conducted after delivery, and many school-aged children are provided hearing screenings at various times. Many adults opt not to receive hearing screening until they are experiencing a problem. However, there are important reasons to get a hearing screening or hearing test at age 50. These include:
To establish a baseline.
Hearing loss can be subtle.
Noise damage adds up over time.
Hearing loss is progressive.
Untreated hearing loss can increase the risk of other conditions.
Hearing Loss And Other Health Concerns
Those living with hearing loss become more socially isolated as they feel “different” from their peers or become embarrassed when having to continually ask someone to repeat themselves or slow their talking. Without adequate social interaction, the brain becomes less active leading to depressed moods and increased cognitive decline.
Experiencing hearing loss forces the brain to work overtime as it becomes strained attempting to hear what others around are saying and being left to fill in the gaps of conversation that were missed. Though the brain naturally shrinks as we age, hearing loss causes the brain to shrink at a more rapid rate.
Can Hearing Loss Be Prevented?
The most efficient way to prevent hearing loss is to utilize safety gear, like headphones or earplugs, and limit or avoid exposure to loud noises. There are many tools available to enhance hearing. When hearing becomes impaired, it often cannot be cured.
To reduce your risk of developing hearing problems:
Lower the volume at which you listen to the radio or television.
Utilize personal protective equipment in the workplace, including eye protection, long sleeves, and ear protection.
Keep your ears clean.
Avoid improper use of cotton swabs.
How The Houston Hearing Center Can Help
At the Houston Hearing Center, we have been providing patients in the Houston area with a more individualized approach to hearing solutions for more than 100 years. Our team of skilled audiologists understands the impact that hearing loss, whether partial or complete, can have on a person’s quality of life. This is why we strive to quickly and accurately determine the cause of hearing impairment, the degree of hearing loss, and determine the best plan of care to enhance your hearing abilities through assistive devices and hearing aids.
Our practice works closely with top-rated ear, nose, and throat physicians to better evaluate patients and treat the underlying cause of the hearing loss or balance disorder. Conditions like hearing loss can lead to a decreased quality of life, social isolation, and other serious, life-altering conditions like depression and dementia.
Routine hearing screening and hearing tests, especially beginning at age 50, can aid in the early detection of hearing difficulty and allow for early intervention to reduce the risk of developing more serious health conditions.
If you are experiencing hearing difficulty, ringing in the ears, or balance issues, contact our office to schedule an evaluation to determine the root of the problem and evaluate the best treatment plan for you. Hearing loss can alter your daily life but with the help of the Houston Hearing Center, relief is possible.