1. Age-induced hearing loss:
The most common type of hearing loss is called presbycusis, or age-induced hearing loss. This is caused by a gradual deterioration of hair cells, which is part of the normal ageing process. The degree to which hair cell loss occurs varies from one individual to another. Some people experience a significant loss of sensory cells by the age of 50, while others only have a negligible loss even at the age of 80. Hearing problems associated with presbycusis can be significantly reduced with the right hearing devices.
2. Noise-induced Hearing Loss:
Another common type of hearing loss is noise induced, arising from exposure to excessive noise for extended periods of time. Most commonly this is industrial noise, but it can also be recreational exposure to noise from lawnmowers and other yard maintenance tools, chain saws, snow-mobiles, firearms, music, and concerts, etc. The noise causes damage to both the inner and outer hair cells of the cochlea. People with noise-induced hearing loss typically have difficulty hearing high frequency sounds, but hear better in the low frequencies. Hearing devices are ideal solutions for noise-induced hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is completely preventable by taking care to protect the hearing by using appropriate earplugs or earmuffs when in excessive noise. Unfortunately the hearing loss resulting from noise damage is permanent, so protection is imperative.
Less Common Causes of Hearing Loss
Perhaps you, a friend, or family member have been diagnosed with a less common cause of hearing loss. Here is a little information on some of those disorders. If you have questions or would like further information, email or phone us so we can direct you to a source of reliable information.
1. Acoustic neuroma:
This less common cause of hearing loss is a small benign (non-cancerous) tumour that grows on the auditory nerve and by pressuring the nerve, can cause sensorineural hearing loss, tinnitus, decreased ability to understand speech, and/or balance problems. It usually affects only one ear. Diagnosis usually involves a diagnostic hearing evaluation and a CT scan or MRI. Treatment is usually surgical removal and symptoms are often largely reduced, depending on the size and location of the tumour and how early treatment is provided.
Cholesteotomas are uncommon benign growths affecting the eardrum and middle ear portions of the ear. As the tumour grows it can result in large perforations of the eardrum and erode the ossicles, resulting in conductive hearing loss. Untreated, it can invade the brain. Diagnosis involves a diagnostic hearing evaluation, a consultation with an ear, nose, and throat specialist, and possibly a CT scan or MRI. Treatment involves a surgical removal of the growth and may result in permanent hearing loss depending on how early it is diagnosed and treated. Following treatment, hearing instruments are a good solution in dealing with any resulting hearing loss.
3. Otitis media:
Many parents and children have far too close an acquaintance with this common cause of hearing loss in young people. Otherwise known as an ear infection, it can result in a build-up of fluid in the middle ear which prevents the eardrum from vibrating normally, causing conductive hearing loss. In many cases hearing loss from otitis media resolves on its own without medical intervention, but in some cases the fluid does not drain on its own, and surgery becomes necessary to place a tube in the eardrum and drain the fluid. Following tube placement, hearing usually returns to normal with no need for further intervention.
Otosclerosis occurs when the joints between the ossicles (little bones) of the middle ear get stiffened by bony growth preventing the normal vibrations from occurring. It results in gradually increasing conductive hearing loss and can often be surgically treated. Following treatment, there may be some residual hearing loss which normally responds well to amplification with appropriate hearing instruments. This disorder is more common in women and can tend to run in families, so both a diagnostic hearing evaluation and a careful family medical history are important in the diagnosis of otosclerosis.
5. Ménière’s disease:
This is a difficult disorder to cope with for both the affected person and his or her family. It is characterized by episodes of violent dizziness or vertigo, tinnitus, and, progressive sensorineural hearing loss. Ménière’s disease, or endolymphatic hydrops, is most likely caused by a build-up of fluid in one of the chambers in the cochlea, which eventually bursts the membrane surrounding it allowing the fluid to mix with the different fluids in adjoining chambers. The reaction between the fluids is thought to produce the symptoms. Diagnosis is primarily based on a diagnostic hearing evaluation and a history of the symptoms. There are no known cures, but your doctor may prescribe medications to help minimize the symptoms. Amplification with appropriate hearing instruments will provide significant benefit.
6. Impacted cerumen:
This is just a fancy way of saying that your ear is plugged full of earwax. The ear canal normally produces a waxy substance called cerumen, which lubricates and protects the ear canal. There are tiny hairs called cilia lining the outer portion of the ear canal where cerumen is produced, and these normally trap the wax and gradually move it to the outside of the ear canal. When people use things like Q-tips® to clean their ears, they remove some of the cerumen, but push much of it deeper into the canal where there are no cilia to move it toward the outside. Eventually this results in the ear canal becoming completely blocked with cerumen, and produces a sudden and substantial conductive hearing loss. Occasionally a person has small or curvy ear canals and produces enough cerumen to cause a blockage without any help from “cleaning”. Diagnosis is often as simple as a quick look in the ear canal and a tympanogram (a simple test done in an audiologist’s office) or hearing screening. Treatment is also simple: removal of the wax from the ear canal by either using a do-it-yourself kit from a drugstore or pharmacy, or a quick visit to your doctor’s office. Once the cerumen is removed, the hearing loss it caused disappears.