Gulf Gate Hearing Aid Center / April 8, 2022
Do you find you have to ask people more often than not these days? Do others complain you listen to the TV too loud when it sounds just fine to you? These are common signs of hearing loss and they often go missing. Hearing loss often develops gradually over years, making it easy to ignore the symptoms. However, if left unaddressed it can escalate into communication issues leading to chronic feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation. In addition, many researchers have linked unaddressed hearing loss to higher rates of accidents leading to hospitalization as well as a higher likeliness of developing dementia. Many people wonder if there is a cure for hearing loss and that depends on the type and nature of the impairment.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss and is caused due to damage within the inner ear. While the outer ear collects sound from the world it is the job of tiny hair-like cells, within the fluid-filled cochlea which sends these audio signals to the brain. The hair cells are called stereocilia and are incredibly susceptible to damage. Some of the most common causes of damage to the stereocilia include exposure to loud noise, old age, impact on the head, the use of certain medications, exposure to some airborne chemicals, or infection. Even chronic health issues such as hypertension, diabetes, and osteoporosis can increase your risk of sensorineural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is permanent, so it’s important to do what you can to protect your hearing before it becomes worse.
Conductive Hearing Loss
The other main type of hearing loss is classified as conductive, which denotes there is a blockage or injury to the outer or middle ear. This can take the form of impaction of earwax, injury to the eardrum, infection, bone growth, or a tumor. Anything which impedes audio waves from reaching the inner ear and the brain is considered a conductive hearing loss. While a conductive loss is frustrating and disorienting, the good news is that by clearing the blockage, you can reverse the hearing loss. For instance, clearing impacted earwax, healing an infection, or removing a tumor are all ways in which you can regain your original hearing. It’s important to note, however, that the auditory system is incredibly fragile and, in most cases, you should never try to clear a blockage on your own. Doing so can often lead to lasting damage.
Mixed Hearing Loss
The third type of hearing loss is called mixed and refers to a combination of sensorineural hearing loss mixed with a blockage contributing to conductive hearing loss as well. When the blockage is cleared it can increase the amount you can hear, but clearly, it won’t be able to restore the portion of your hearing loss due to sensorineural hearing loss.
Treating Hearing Loss
While sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, it can be treated effectively using hearing aids or cochlear implants. Hearing aids are tiny electronic devices that are worn in or around the ears. They convert audio waves into digital sound and amplify the sounds you need to hear. Today’s hearing aids can be programmed based on a hearing exam to amplify only the tones and frequencies you need while allowing the rest of the sounds to be picked up organically with your existing hearing. Of course, sometimes when hearing loss is more profound cochlear implants are needed. A cochlear implant uses a sound processor worn behind the ear while a transmitter sends sound signals to a receiver and stimulator surgically implanted under the skin. This in turn stimulates the auditory nerve with electrodes that have been threaded into the cochlea allowing a patient to hear even with a profound hearing loss.
The Future of Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) affects approximately 466 million people worldwide and while no there is no cure scientists are constantly working on methods that would allow stereocilia to regenerate. With the knowledge that some animals including baby chickens, mice, and zebrafish can re-grow stereocilia if damaged. Using stem cells technology scientists hope to regenerate injured tissue. Stem cells have the potential to develop into many different types of cells in the body including those of the ears.
How Hearing Aids Help You Hear
In the meantime, if you suspect you have hearing loss, don’t delay in seeking treatment. The first step is to schedule an appointment for a hearing exam. Contact us today!