Hearing impairment can affect everyone, and it can occur at any point during a person’s life. Hearing loss affects different people to varying degrees and for different reasons, and can be triggered by any number of environmental and biological factors. Genetic factors, prolonged exposure to loud noises, disease or illness, physical trauma to the ear, and aging are all causes of hearing loss.
Although many forms of hearing loss cannot be reversed, people who suffer from impaired hearing need not resign themselves to a world of fainter, less distinct sounds. By acquiring a thorough understanding of the different types of hearing loss, their causes, and the solutions available for treating them, patients can often successfully restore their ability to listen, converse, and perceive the world around them.
Hearing loss is generally categorized by location—that is, what part of the ear is damaged—as well as by severity and age of onset. There are three primary types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and one that is a combination of both, referred to as mixed hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss results from sound waves being conducted through the outer and/or middle ear inefficiently. In other words, sound waves are blocked or muffled before they can reach the inner ear, which is still functioning properly.
Conductive hearing loss can be caused by a number of factors, including:
Sensorineural hearing loss results from damage to the inner ear (cochlea) or the nerve pathways that transmit sound vibrations to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss cannot be reversed and is not treatable through surgery or medication, but it can be significantly improved through the use of a hearing aid or assistive listening device.
There are several factors that can lead to sensorineural hearing loss, including:
Mixed hearing loss refers to a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, which can involve damage in the outer, middle, and inner ear simultaneously.
Hearing loss is measured in degrees that attempt to correlate the expected degree of hearing difficulty that may be encountered. Typically, hearing loss cases are divided into five categories, ranging from normal to profound, based on the patient’s ability to perceive sound at different decibels (dB). The decibel levels listed below represent the softest sound that a patient with the indicated level of hearing loss is able to perceive.
To determine your level of hearing loss, Dr. Debra Venkatesh or Dr. Green will administer various hearing tests. Dr. Venkatesh will perform an audiometric test, in which you will wear earphones that play tones at different frequencies and volumes into one ear and then the other. You will signal to Dr. Venkatesh when you hear a tone by raising your hand. This procedure will help her to identify the softest level of sound that you are able to perceive and to ascertain how well you can understand various sounds, thus allowing her to determine your degree of hearing loss.
Dr. Venkatesh will also conduct a physical examination of the ears in order to asses the overall condition of your ear canal and eardrum. This will allow her, in part, to determine whether your hearing loss is conductive or sensorineural in nature.
Treatment for hearing loss will depend on the type and degree of loss.
After your hearing has been thoroughly evaluated, Dr. Venkatesh will discuss the risks and benefits of each treatment option and help you make the decision that is right for you.
If you are concerned about hearing loss, please contact our office to arrange an appointment with Dr. Venkatesh. We look forward to helping you hear more clearly!