When people began experiencing hearing loss, they often deny the problem. Because most cases of hearing loss occur gradually, it’s easy to pretend auditory abilities remain normal. In many cases, those suffering from hearing loss rely on others to speak loudly and repeat themselves. This leads to miscommunication and can even be dangerous, especially when driving a car or engaging in other activities where injuries may occur. To gain access to vital hearing loss treatments, schedule an appointment with Gallatin, Tenessee based Regional ENT Associates
If caught early, hearing loss can be often be stopped, but when people wait too long, they lose significant amounts of hearing ability that can never be regained. Are you or a loved one having difficulty hearing? Are sounds becoming distorted? If so, it’s vitally important to see seek hearing loss treatment. Loss of hearing and sound distortions are major signs you should find an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.
Major Signs That Hearing Loss Treatments Are Needed Right Now
Hearing loss can occur at any age, though it is far more prevalent in senior citizens. Age-related hearing loss affects millions of seniors, but younger people may also experience hearing loss, often due to exposure to too much loud noise, genetic factors, or disease. Regardless of the cause or the age of the person struggling to hear, get checked out by an ENT if you have any of the following symptoms:
Muffling of Sounds
Difficulty hearing people talking at a normal conversational level or not hearing things like the water running in the sink are not normal parts of aging. They indicate severe loss of auditory perception that requires hearing loss treatment. Have an ENT doctor determine if there is another cause of sound muffling, such as wax buildup, or if hearing loss has begun to progress. The sooner treatment begins, the more auditory perception can be saved.
Difficulty Understanding Words, Especially Against Background Noise or in a Crowd
Trouble understanding words is a dead giveaway that hearing loss has begun. In many cases, the person suffering hearing loss will understand people in one-on-one conversations but may be unable to understand words when there is background noise.
This often occurs in crowded restaurants, where the many other conversations make it impossible for the person with hearing loss to differentiate sounds. Don’t ignore difficulties hearing against background noises. The problem may soon progress to the inability to hear even in quiet environments.
Trouble Hearing Consonants
Difficulty hearing consonants often presents as one of the first signs of hearing loss. This can often make words seem garbled. For example, a person may say one word and the person suffering hearing loss may think the person said something different.
Often Having to Ask Others to Speak More Slowly, Clearly and Loudly
Sometimes, people with hearing loss assume others are mumbling or speaking too quickly. In reality, hearing loss is making it difficult to pick up sounds and interpret their meanings. If you or a loved one are constantly needing people to repeat themselves more loudly, hearing loss is the likely culprit.
Turning the Radio and Television Volume Up Far Too Loud
This is one of the most common signs of hearing loss. The person who struggles to hear turns the volume up so high that other people can hear the television or radio from the other room or even the other side of the house.
Withdrawal From Conversations
Hearing loss often makes participation in normal conversations all but impossible. The person with hearing problems may simply be unable to respond and be forced to sit quietly while struggling to follow the conversation. Unfortunately, this may lead to avoidance of social settings and isolation.
When to See a Doctor
If you or a loved one suffer from any of the above symptoms, schedule an appointment with an ENT without delay. In addition, seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing sudden hearing loss or a rapid decline in the auditory ability of one ear.
Hearing loss is not the only difficulty people have with their ears. Ears are crucial for balance, and many stability issues result from inner-ear issues. In addition, vertigo may also result from ear difficulties. Common reasons to see an ENT about your ears other than hearing loss include the following:
- Balance issues
- Motion sickness
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Swimmer’s ear
- Chronic middle ear fluid
- Perforated eardrum
- Excessive earwax buildup
Hearing Loss Treatments
At Regional ENT Associates, we believe in getting to know our patients and their unique needs. Our doctors and staff members understand that each case is unique and each person suffering from hearing loss has their own personal goals. After initially fitting clients with amplification devices, we
continue to follow-up and make adjustments as needed and help maintain devices and hearing level. By utilizing the latest technologies, we ensure our clients get the most from their experience.
Hearing aids are customized devices, and not every style or brand suits each individual. As a result, Regional ENT Associates provides a wide variety of hearing aid styles and brands. We offer products from manufacturers that include Unitron, ReSound, Starkey and Rexton. Professional evaluation of hearing loss and lifestyle is needed to choose the right hearing aid for our clients.
Hearing aids range from entry-level to premium products. Entry-level hearing aids work well for people with mild hearing loss or who live a quiet lifestyle. For those with severe hearing loss or who must work or socialize in noisy areas, premium products are needed to gain full functionality. The different hearing aid levels include the following:
These hearing aids work great for one-on-one conversations and watching television. For people who live quiet lifestyles and are rarely confronted by background noises, entry-level technology provides the functionality they need at an economical price.
This level provides all the benefits of entry-level technology but is recommended for people who frequently use the telephone. It also assists with a wider range of home activities that may involve more background noise.
Social lifestyle hearing aids provide far superior functionality when engaging in small gatherings, conversing in restaurants or attending events like religious services. They also work well for people who occasionally use communication devices in their vehicles.
For those who spend time outdoors, dine in noisy restaurants, attend the theater and participate in group/classroom discussions, active lifestyle hearing aids allow them to participate fully.
Some hearing loss sufferers still need maximum function because they work in noisy environments, attend parties, sporting events and concerts, and may frequently fly and take long vacations or cruises. For those who need to hear as they did when young, demanding lifestyle hearing aids are essential.
How Hearing Functions
The human ear is made up of the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. Hearing is made possible by sound waves that move through the outer ear and create vibrations in the eardrum. The eardrum and three miniature bones within the middle ear amplify the vibrations. The amplified vibrations then travel to the inner ear.
Once in the inner ear, the vibrations pass through fluid contained in a small structure called the cochlea. Nerve cells and thousands of tiny hairs contained in the cochlea convert the vibrations into electrical signals. These signals then travel the brain, which turns them into sounds.
Examples of How Hearing Loss Can Occur
Hearing loss occurs for other reasons than aging, though inner ear damage often results from the aging process.
Damage to the Inner Ear
Both aging and exposure to loud noises wear down the hairs and nerve cells contained in the cochlea. When these suffer damage, their ability to send electrical sound signals to the brain becomes compromised, resulting in hearing loss. As more damage occurs, the hearing loss increases in severity. A similar process occurs when the brakes on a vehicle go bad. As more pressure is applied, the brakes wear further until, eventually, the shoes and rotors face undue stress, resulting in eventual brake failure.
When inner ear damage becomes severe, higher-pitched tones sound muffled and background noise makes differentiating words difficult to impossible.
Certain people tend to suffer from earwax buildup, often because their ear canals are narrow and prone to easily clogging. Once earwax blocks the ear canal, the conduction of sound waves becomes limited. Earwax can also be compacted against the eardrum, which may occur over time or as a result of swimming. An ENT doctor can cure this problem by performing an ear irrigation, which uses warm water to flush out the wax.
Severe ear infections can occur in the outer or middle ear and interfere with hearing function.
Abnormal Bone Growths and Tumors
These can also occur in the middle or outer ear and cause hearing loss.
Eardrums are susceptible to rupture even if nothing directly touches them. Extremely loud noises and quick pressure changes can cause them to pop, resulting in hearing loss.
Risk Factors for Hearing Loss
Maintaining hearing ability is an important part of a high-quality life. Other than aging, there are numerous risk factors that contribute to hearing loss. Avoiding excessively noisy environments and limiting the use of headphones help maintain healthy ears. Common risk factors include the following:
- Loud noises
- Occupational noises
- Recreational noises
- Certain medications
- Some Illnesses
Hearing Loss Is a Serious Health Condition
Many people view hearing loss as a natural part of aging and not as a serious health concern that requires treatment. This is a mistake. Hearing loss can be stopped with proper treatment, and those suffering from it can lead full lives free of disability. When hearing aids are introduced early in the process of hearing degeneration, they help preserve existing abilities while making life easier for the person with hearing loss and those around them.
If you or a loved one suffer from hearing loss symptoms, see an ENT as soon as possible. There is no nobility in suffering through the loss of auditory abilities. That only leads to lower life quality, inability to participate fully in important and cherished activities and social isolation. Hearing loss can also be dangerous. Many accidents can be avoided by wearing hearing aids.
Get the Help You Need
Are you or a loved one in need of hearing loss treatments? Come to Regional ENT Associates in Gallatin, Tenessee. Our doctors and staff take the time to get to know our clients so we can craft the best solution for hearing loss and lifestyle. The signs of hearing loss often start subtly and eventually become obvious and then profound. Early intervention saves time, aggravation and money. When hearing becomes a challenge, it’s time to see an ENT who specializes in hearing loss treatments.