Hearing loss, hearing aids and preventing further damage

doctor checking elderly man's ears

All day you are surrounded by the sounds of labor, life and people. You may think nothing of these noises. But what if sound started to fade away?

Our ears are working every moment, assessing the world around us and providing us with necessary information. However, over time and with repeated loud noises, our ability to hear can diminish. Loud machinery, continuous noises throughout the day, the high-pitched hum from tools and livestock, the sound of the highway and busy cities — these everyday noises may seem insignificant; however, continuous noise can affect and even damage our hearing.

Loss of hearing

It is often gradual but can occur suddenly. Some of the first signs are ringing in the ears or a decreased ability to hear. This can include needing to turn the TV volume up louder, not being able to hear in a large group or an inability to understand a conversation when there is background noise.

A comprehensive hearing exam can be completed to determine if someone has hearing loss, and if so, what kind of loss is occurring. The results from the test are immediate, and one of two types of hearing loss, or a combination of both, can be identified.

Conductive hearing loss is caused by a problem with the middle ear or middle ear bones, and these patients may be candidates for surgery with an ear, nose and throat physician; whereas, sensorineural hearing loss is a permanent loss where the hearing nerve or hair cells have been damaged and cannot be repaired.

“Hearing loss, when talking about the aging process of our ears, is sensorineural hearing loss. One type of sensorineural hearing loss is noise-induced hearing loss. Based on someone’s lifestyle (i.e. hunting, machinery, loud concerts, etc.), patients may experience noise-induced hearing loss. There isn’t a surgery to fix the hearing nerve or those hair cells that have been damaged. The common treatment option for sensorineural hearing loss is hearing aids,” said Lori Miller, Au.D., an audiologist at Sanford Health.

Hearing aids do not repair the damage but amplify sound to allow someone to better hear. There are many hearing aid options available, and an audiologist can help identify the correct hearing aid based on medical needs and lifestyle.

Protecting your hearing

The most important thing is protecting the hearing nerve against further damage. Noise-induced hearing loss is the only preventable type of loss. And the solution is hearing protection, especially for careers involving constant noise.

From earplugs to ear muffs, there are options to fit every person, including ear protection custom fit to an individual. Custom, filtered plugs can also be an option for those who only need to filter out high-pitched noises, but still need the ability to hear when working, hunting, even having a conversation.

The initial step if you think you have hearing loss is scheduling an appointment with your primary care provider. Your primary care provider will determine if you should be referred to an audiologist.

Posted In Ear, Nose & Throat, Health Information

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