Hearing is integral to quality of life, enhancing social engagement and communication. Regular checkups help detect issues before they worsen.
Take frequent breaks from loud noises, wear ear protection at concerts and when mowing the lawn, and carry earplugs in your purse or pocket to reduce hearing loss risk. Eating healthily also helps your ears.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Exposed to hazardous levels of noise can damage the inner ear hair cells permanently and lead to permanent hearing loss – this type is called noise-induced hearing loss or NIHL.
Decibel levels (which measure sound volume) and duration play an integral part in whether or not sounds damage your hearing. For example, being exposed for eight hours to 85 dB noise–such as you might experience at a rock concert or when using power tools–can result in irreparable hearing damage and cause hearing loss.
Short-term effects of NIHL include not being able to hear high-pitched sounds like birds singing or not understanding speech in noisy environments, while longer-term symptoms include tinnitus (or fullness in the ears), which can come on quickly or gradually and typically lasts permanently. Asymmetry of NIHL may occur as different sounds reach each ear differently, for instance when right-handed people use weapons with muzzle blasts that hit more frequently on one side than another of their head, such as muzzle blasts from weapons hitting more frequently on one side than another side, or when right-handed people use weapons with muzzle blasts from weapons more frequently than another side, leading to permanent hearing loss in one side than another side, making hearing impairment impossible in all circumstances.
Age-Related Hearing Loss
Age-related hearing loss, commonly referred to as presbycusis, is the gradual loss of hearing that comes with age. This loss is caused by changes to your inner ear and auditory nerve – two organs responsible for relaying sound signals between inner ears and brain. As these changes progress they can make it more difficult to hear high-pitched sounds such as voices, as well as distinguish between conversations and background noise.
Research has demonstrated that untreated hearing loss can contribute to dementia and cognitive decline. Furthermore, hearing loss may reduce daily activity participation which in turn could cause feelings of isolation and depression in some individuals.
Your primary healthcare provider can diagnose age-related hearing loss with an otoscope, which is a lighted scope that allows the provider to see inside the ear canal and ear drum. They may refer you to an audiologist for further testing, including audiogram testing where sounds are played into headphones in one ear at a time while being asked if you hear certain tones.
Preventing Hearing Loss
Audiologists are doctors who specialize in hearing and balance problems while offering quality hearing care services. Although some forms of hearing loss can be preventable, Allie Jo Heckman, a clinical audiologist from Michigan Medicine’s department of otolaryngology recommends people protect themselves from loud noises by wearing earplugs during concerts; also when using headphones or earbuds. She advises using them when mowing lawns or operating power tools as well as wearing protection when exposed to loud noises at work.
Genetic variations and medications (e.g. antibiotics, steroid medications and chemotherapy drugs) can also contribute to hearing loss; such treatments include antibiotics, steroid medications and chemotherapy drugs. Individuals suffering from hereditary hearing loss typically exhibit symptoms including muffled sound quality, difficulty understanding speech and an audible ringing in their ears (tinnitus).
Hearing tests are painless and noninvasive ways of discovering how your ears are performing and to detect any loss of hearing so your Green Valley audiologist can develop a personalized treatment plan.
The most typical hearing tests involve headphones or earplugs connected to a device that plays sounds at various volumes and pitches, prompting an audiologist to ask you when you hear sounds to respond by raising your hand or pressing a button when hearing them. They may also play recorded or live speech at different volumes levels before asking you to repeat back what you heard; this helps determine the softest speech sounds you can hear.
Other tests include Otoacoustic Emissions (OAEs), which measure how your inner ear hair cells are functioning; Tympanometry (tim-pah-NOM-eh-tree), which measures the movement of your eardrum; Sentence-in-Noise (SIN) testing measures how well conversational speech can be understood even in noisy environments.