Once you have moved beyond denial and into acceptance, it is very important to learn all you can about your particular hearing loss. To begin, you should know:
- What type of hearing loss do I have?
- What is the degree of loss in my left and right ears?
- How can I prevent my hearing loss from getting worse?
- How do hearing aids help to bridge the gap?
- When should I get hearing aids?
What type of hearing loss do I have?
There are three different types of hearing loss, as determined by where in your ear the problem lies.
Types of hearing loss:
- Conductive Hearing Loss:
Sound can't travel from the outer ear, (the part you can see) to the inner ear (the part you can't see). This is often the result of wax build-up, trauma to the ear, or even ear infections. Typically, conductive hearing loss “turns the volume down” but doesn't necessarily affect the clarity of your hearing. Conductive hearing losses may also be corrected by medical intervention, so it is always important to make an appointment with an ear, nose, and throat specialist for further consultation.
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss:
With sensorineural hearing loss, the problem may be damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or within the hearing nerve. Most of the time, the hair cells in the inner ear have been worn down due to aging or noise exposure, but sometimes, medications, cancer treatments or illness can create deterioration as well. With sensorineural loss, it's not just that “the volume is turned down,” but your ability to understand speech suffers too. This is the most common type of hearing loss as 90% of people with hearing loss have this kind. The most effective treatment is hearing devices.
- Mixed Hearing Loss:
Just like it sounds, this is a mixture of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
What are the Degrees of Hearing Loss?
The different levels of hearing loss are:
- Profound: This is the greatest degree of hearing loss. Only the loudest sounds are audible and even shouting may not be heard at all.
- Severe: This degree of hearing loss means that normal conversation is not audible. Even shouting can be challenging to comprehend.
- Moderate: Hearing and understanding speech is significantly reduced at this level and group environments are extremely challenging.
- Mild/Slight Loss: Hearing conversations in group settings is more difficult with this degree of hearing loss. People with mild loss are those that have the TV and radio turned up louder than is comfortable with those no normal hearing.
- Normal/Good: This means that you may have some trouble hearing conversations in a noisy room or when someone is speaking quietly. In quiet environments, mild hearing loss is manageable.
How Can I Prevent My Hearing Loss from Getting Worse?
For the majority of people who have hearing loss, it will get worse with time. Whether you have hearing loss from continued noise exposure or it's simply a combination of aging and genetics, time is not on your side. However, there are important things you can do to ensure you are making your hearing health a priority and taking precautionary measures.
- Use hearing aids to address your hearing loss! Hearing Aids for your brain are akin to weightlifting and exercise for your muscles: nerves fire to the muscles, keeping them strong. If you don't exercise your muscles, they'll weaken and atrophy. That's why it's important to use hearing aids to stimulate the hearing nerve. This helps the clarity of your hearing stay as intact as possible. Hearing aids make the most out of the hearing ability you have left and keep your brain's ability to recognize speech in top shape.
- Limit your noise exposure. If you work in a noisy environment or plan to attend a loud event, like a concert, then ear protection is a must. Regular earplugs provide some protection, which is better than nothing, but most hearing care providers can fit you with custom earplugs for maximum comfort and protection.
- Test your hearing every year so you can monitor your hearing health and take action as soon as any changes occur.
How do Hearing Aids Help to Bridge the Gap?
Hearing aids improve brain function and cognitive health. Researchers found treating hearing loss with hearing aids may possibly prevent the effects of cognitive decline or earlier onset of dementia. In a study of first-time hearing
Aid users, hearing aids helped brain function in multiple ways. The study showed that after using hearing aids for six months, the hearing aid users’ results were found to have:
- Improved memory
- Improved speech processing
- Greater ease of listening
When your brain is deprived of sound, such as from untreated hearing loss. Over time, your brain loses the ability to process sound. If left untreated, the parts of the brain normally responsible for hearing tend to shrink or atrophy, which is a result of lack of auditory stimulation called “Auditory Deprivation”.
When Should I Get Hearing Aids?
As soon as you or a loved one notices a change in your hearing. If left untreated, hearing loss will continue to degenerate, negatively affecting your quality of life. The longer you wait to seek treatment, the more the brain will atrophy and struggle to understand words and/or process information. The longer you wait, the longer it will take to activate the parts in the brain that pick up and process sounds. Well documented research has shown individuals with hearing loss, left untreated, are 5-times more likely to developed dementia and other cognitive/memory problems and/or are leads to depression, feelings of social isolation, and relationship strains with loved ones.