Hearing loss can happen to anyone at any time in their life. In my work as an audiologist in the Hardin County communities, I see it every day. And it affects not only you but also your family, friends, and co-workers. Not being able to hear conversations with the people in your life can bring on misunderstandings and cause frustration.
And hearing loss is becoming more and more commonplace, with about 48 million people in the United States suffering from it. Hearing loss falls into three basic types: conductive, mixed, and sensorineural. Of the three, the sensorineural type makes up about 90% of hearing loss reported by patients. Let’s take a closer look at this type of hearing loss and how it can affect you.
What Is Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
While conductive hearing loss stems from problems of the outer or middle ear, sensorineural hearing loss starts in the inner ear. We’ll compare normal hearing to this kind of hearing loss.
In normal hearing, sound waves enter your ear and move toward the eardrum. These sound waves cause the eardrum and the bones in the middle ear to vibrate. The tiny hair cells in the inner ear begin to change those vibrations into signals that the auditory nerve picks up and sends that information to your brain.
But if these hair cells of the inner ear are damaged, the auditory nerve won’t be able to pick those signals. The result is that you may not be able to hear certain sounds, or they may not be precise enough. This is sensorineural hearing loss. Damage to the auditory nerve can also have the same effects on your hearing ability as damaged hair cells, but it is less common.
What Are the Causes of Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
The causes of this type of hearing loss can be divided into two categories: congenital or acquired. Congenital sensorineural hearing loss occurs during pregnancy. Acquired means that hearing loss develops after you are born, often later in life. Between the two, acquired hearing loss is much more frequent.
The most common cause of acquired sensorineural hearing loss is aging, with almost a quarter of people over the age of 65 who have this condition.
But this type of hearing loss affects younger people as well because the second most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss is caused by noise. No matter what your age is, this could be caused by any number of everyday activities. It could come from working in a noisy environment, running a lawnmower, going to a loud sporting event, or being exposed to the gunfire blasts when hunting. Other causes of acquired sensorineural hearing loss include medications that are toxic to hearing, illnesses, and head trauma.
The causes of congenital sensorineural hearing loss include genetics, premature birth, maternal diabetes, infectious diseases that are passed from the mother to the baby during pregnancy, and lack of oxygen during birth.
The Different Levels of Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss affects both the volume and the clearness of the sounds you hear. But even if you have some damage to the inner ear, more often than not, you will able to hear some sounds depending on their volume. The loudness and the clarity of the sounds you hear help us to determine the level of sensorineural hearing loss you have.
For example, if you cannot hear softer sounds such as a ticking clock, your hearing loss might be characterized as moderate. If your hearing loss is severe, you cannot hear a dog barking. And if you cannot hear the sound of a plane taking off, you have complete or profound hearing loss.
How well you hear conversation is another measure of hearing loss. If you have moderate hearing loss, you cannot hear certain speech sounds and may have trouble with phone conversations. A severe hearing loss means that you miss out on most conversations unless they are very loud. If you have profound hearing loss, you will not hear speech at all without the help of a hearing aid.
How Is Hearing Loss Checked?
To determine the extent of your hearing loss, we would perform a hearing assessment. This exam is safe, easy to do, and thorough. During the hearing assessment, all other sounds are blocked out, and you will be asked to identify sounds of different volumes. The test will show the clarity of your hearing as well as the volume of sounds that you perceive.
At the end of the test, you’ll get a full report about your hearing level and possible causes for it. We’ll be happy to answer any questions you may have about the results of your hearing test. Besides a hearing screening, we can offer suggestions on how to prevent further damage to your hearing caused by external factors.
What Is the Treatment for Sensorineural Hearing Loss?
Unfortunately, hearing loss of this type is generally permanent. It usually stays stable or worsens over time. And while there is no quick fix to make sensorineural hearing loss go away, devices such as hearing aids can improve your hearing by reversing its effects.
It might take a little time to get used to the idea of using hearing aids to help you hear better. But the good news is that today’s devices are a far cry from the big bulky ones your grandparents may have worn. They are amazingly tiny and almost unnoticeable. Hearing aid technology has advanced a great deal in recent years, resulting in easy-to-use devices that connect to your smartphone and have rechargeable batteries.
The right fit for your hearing aids makes all the difference. We’re pleased to be the only hearing clinic in East Texas to offer the most up-to-date technique in customized hearing aid fitting: 3-D Ear Scanning. It’s a more comfortable way to get a precise fit, and the wait time for your devices is substantially cut because the ear mold measurement is digital.
We’re Here to Help
Hearing loss can make you feel as if you’re missing out on some of the essential things in life, both the big conversations and the small talk. By performing a hearing assessment, we can help you understand your situation and find the best treatment option that works for you.
At Big Thicket Hearing Aids and Audiology, we would be glad to have a no-obligation phone call with you or your loved one on the phone to answer any questions and offer recommendations. Get in touch with us today to request a callback, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.
Dr. Joni Ruiz is the owner and Doctor of Audiology at Big Thicket Hearing Aids and Audiology. She earned her doctorate of audiology in 2009 from Lamar University in Beaumont, TX. Selected for a prestigious fourth-year externship at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C., Dr. Ruiz has more than ten years’ experience as an Audiologist. She has a heart for patient-centered care. At her hearing care practice, she performs comprehensive diagnostic audiological evaluations, provides aural rehabilitation to her patients and their loved ones, dispenses state of the art hearing aids, and manages the care of said devices for their life. Dr. Ruiz is dedicated to patient education regarding hearing loss, hearing protection, and hearing aid selection.