About Hearing Loss

Virtual Tour of the Ear
More than 24 million Americans have some type of hearing problem. Hearing difficulties are often unrecognized by the person involved. Children and teenagers seldom complain about the symptoms of hearing loss, and adults may lose their hearing so gradually that they do not realize it is happening. The first step in the treatment of a hearing problem is a hearing evaluation by an audiologist. The audiologist is a professional dedicated to helping persons overcome hearing loss.

Do you have a hearing loss?

Ask yourself the following questions....

  • Do you frequently ask people to repeat themselves?
  • Do you often feel tired or stressed during conversations?
  • Do you avoid social situations?
  • Do you find yourself frequently denying hearing problems?
  • Do you often misunderstand conversations?
  • Do you turn up the volume on your TV so loud that others complain?
  • Do you have difficulty understanding speech in noisy places?

Many people experiences some of these problems from time to time. If you experience them consistently, however, you probably have a hearing loss. You're in good company. About 24 million Americans - one in ten - experience hearing loss. Nearly one-half of these are under the age of 65! It often occurs so gradually that the person with the hearing loss doesn't even notice - but others do.

 All right, I might have a hearing loss. What now?

If you think you have a hearing problem, see an audiologist to have your hearing evaluated. No one is too young to have a hearing test. Audiologists are well-prepared to give you your hearing evaluation. They have an advanced university education (master's or doctorate) in Audiology, professional credentials and are licensed in nearly every state. They will provide the full range of tests to determine the exact nature of your hearing loss, and whether your condition warrants the attention of a physician. Many audiologists also dispense hearing aids.

What are the types of hearing loss?

A SENSORINEURAL hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or hearing nerve. This is typically a permanent type of hearing loss that usually can be helped with a hearing aid.

A CONDUCTIVE hearing loss occurs when sound is not conducted efficiently through the ear canal, ear drum or middle ear. This is often reversible with medical or surgical intervention. If surgery is not recommended, hearing aids may be appropriate.

A MIXED hearing loss occurs when someone has a combination of a sensorineural hearing loss and a conductive hearing loss.

What may have caused hearing loss?

Damage to the hearing system due to serious illness, medications, and heredity or family hearing loss. Although these factors usually result in permanent, sensorineural hearing loss, it is important to have both the audiologist and a physician involved in the diagnosis. If medical treatment is not indicated, your audiologist can help with special types of hearing aids appropriate for the hearing loss.

Problems such as ear infections, injury, ear disease or excessive earwax. These often can be treated medically or surgically. Your audiologist will evaluate your hearing and refer you to a physician for treatment.

Damage to the hearing system due to prolonged exposure to loud noise. Prevention of hearing loss is the key! Your audiologist can provide you with appropriate ear protection to prevent further decrease in hearing as well as hearing aids and assistive listening devices, if indicated.