Hearing Loss

What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss is a reduction in the ability to hear sounds. It can range in severity from mild to profound and it may be temporary or permanent. Your hearing health care professional is uniquely qualified to help identify and treat hearing loss.

Causes of hearing loss

Hearing loss can occur either in the outer or middle ear (conductive hearing loss) or in the inner ear (sensory-neural hearing loss).

  • In the outer and middle ear, typical problems include excessive earwax, infection of the auditory canal, perforation and/and or infection of the eardrum, otosclerosis.
  • In the inner ear the majority of hearing problems result from damaged inner ear structures. The natural aging process, excessive exposure to noise, injury, illness and certain medicine are the most common causes of hearing loss in the inner ear.

hearing loss

Degrees of hearing loss

Mild hearing loss: Unable to hear soft sounds and difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments.

Moderate hearing loss: Unable to hear soft and moderately loud sounds, considerable difficulty in understanding speech, particularly with background noise.

Severe hearing loss: Unable to hear most sounds. Speakers must raise their voice / shout to be heard. Group conversations are possible only with considerable effort.

Profound hearing loss: Some very loud sounds are audible but communication without a hearing instrument is very difficult.

Impact of hearing loss on communication:
  • Hearing loss affects clarity of speech
  • Difficulty hearing in noisy environments
  • Others seem to be mumbling
  • The high pitched sounds of spoken language, such as “s”, “f”, “t”, “th” and “sh”, are inaudible

Warning signs of hearing loss

  • If you experience these signs repeatedly or in combination, they may indicate a hearing loss:
  • People seem to mumble more frequently.
  • You have difficulty understanding speech in noise – like in a restaurant.
  • You experience ringing in your ears – called tinnitus.
  • You often ask people to repeat themselves.
  • Your family complains that you set the radio or TV too loud.
  • You no longer hear normal household sounds, such as the dripping of a tap, the ringing of a doorbell or the ‘beep’ of a microwave oven.
  • You have difficulty understanding a conversation when in a large group or crowd.
  • You can hear the other person speaking during a conversation, but have trouble understanding all the words.
  • You find telephone conversations increasingly difficult.
  • You have trouble hearing when your back is turned to the speaker.
  • You have been told you speak too loudly or in some cases too softly.

Quick Hearing Test

If your answer to any of these is YES, you may have a hearing loss.

  • I experience difficulty hearing people over the telephone.
  • I have to turn the TV’s volume up louder than others prefer.
  • I have to strain to hear people speak during conversations.
  • I worry that I won’t hear the doorbell or the phone ring.
  • I have trouble hearing conversations in a noisy environment such as a restaurant.
  • I don’t always know where sounds are coming from.
  • I don’t always catch all the words in a sentence and often need to ask people to repeat themselves.
  • I have trouble hearing the voices of women and children.
  • I experience difficulty hearing the speaker in a large room, such as a meeting.
  • Many people I talk to seem to mumble or speak unclearly.
  • Social activities and conversations are difficult to maintain.
  • Family members and friends have told me they think I may have a hearing loss.
Click here for your nearest Ear Institute, where you can book a hearing test or request advice.

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