How does the ear function?
The outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear are the three main parts of the ear. Hearing starts when the waves of the sound cross from the outer ear to the thin skin between the middle and outer ear called the eardrum. There is a vibration when the waves of the sound reach the eardrum.
Ossicles present in the middle ear consists of three bones. They are named as hammer, anvil, and stirrup. To increase the vibrations of the eardrum and ossicles have to work together when the waves of the sound travel towards the inner ear.
The waves travel through the fluids of cochlea when the waves of sound reaching the inner ear. The snail-shaped structure in the inner ear is called the cochlea. Thousands of miniature hairs are attached to the nerve cells present in the cochlea.
The function of these hairs is to change the vibrations of sound waves to electrical signals that travel to the brain. The interpretations of these signals by the brain is called sound. Different reactions are created by different sounds in these tiny hairs which inturn signals different sounds to the brain.
What is hearing loss?
When someone is unable to partially or completely hear sound in one or both of their ears it is called hearing loss. Twenty-five percent of people between the ages of sixty-five and seventy-four are said to experience this hearing loss as revealed by the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders.
There are many names for hearing loss such as follows:
- Loss of hearing
- Decreased hearing
- Conductive hearing loss
Types of Hearing Loss
Often simple aging or exposure to loud noises over time is to be blamed for hearing loss. A few types of hearing loss can be treated by surgery or medicines. While others are more permanent where only hearing aids and implants can help.
There are three basic groups in which the hearing loss can be divided into:
- Conductive hearing loss: this is a mechanical problem in the ear. The waves of sound have trouble moving from the outer ear to the eardrum as well as middle ear bones. Surgery and medicines might help in such cases.
- Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL): this happens due to the nerve damage which takes place in the inner ear. This is permanent. The cochlear implant or hearing aid might make things easier.
- Mixed hearing loss: this is the combination of both types of hearing loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Any disease or the problem in the structure in the outer or the middle ear which causes such hearing loss.
Causes of Conductive hearing loss:
- Too much earwax: This is also known as cerumen obstruction. The usage of the cotton swab pushes the wax deeper inside the ear. The person might have problem in hearing as the wax builds up. During an office visit the doctors can get rid of the wax.
- Swimmer’s ear: This is also called otitis externa. This infection of the outer canal of the ear is caused by the water. The person might lose some hearing if the ear starts swelling.
- Something struck in the ear canal: Beads or tiny buttons or pieces of cotton from the ear swabs may get stuck into the ear. This is often observed in the children by the doctors. There may be hearing trouble and very itchy feeling in the ear if a bug gets stuck in the ear but such cases are very rare.
- A hole in the eardrum: There is a high chance of hearing loss if there is any perforation in the eardrum. Such conditions can affect the ear’s ability to pick up the vibrations of sound such as in normal conditions.
- Birth defects: During birth, there may be malformation of the outer canal of the ear. Such type of defect is called atresia. The canal might be missing or may have failed to open. In such cases, surgery can be used to reconstruct the ear.
- Otosclerosis: In the bones of the middle ear, there might be an abnormal bony growth. This condition prevents the sound waves from vibrating in response to sound.
- Cholesteatoma: in the skin of the middle ear there might be a clump of noncancerous tissues. This happens when the eardrum collapses. Such cases are very serious and can cause heavy damage to the ear.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
This is a very common type of permanent loss of hearing. In such conditions, the sound may appear to be muted or garbled. There might be unclear faint sounds. The conversations can be hard to hear when present in a crowded place. Loud noises for example; a person’s voice might appear muffled.
Causes of Sensorineural hearing loss:
- Aging: This happens when a person simple grows older. This type of hearing loss is called presbycusis by the doctors. This type of age-related loss of hearing is hereditary. It starts when a person has trouble hearing high pitched sounds.
- Noise exposure: This term is also known as acoustic trauma. Exposure to loud noises for a long period of time might damage your ears. For example; loud tools, engines, weapons, also musical events. So, usage of ear protection is recommended in such scenarios.
- Head injury: Both types of hearing loss can be caused
- Sudden changes in air pressure: Things like scuba diving or riding in an airplane whereas when it lands or takes off could cause fluid within the internal ear to shift, inflicting an escape or rupture. This may lead to inner ear nerve damage.
- Acoustic neoplasm: This noncancerous neoplasm affects the nerve that sends signals between the internal ear and brain. Hearing loss, the most symptoms, is slow to occur and happens in exactly one ear.
- Autoimmune inner ear disease: This rare condition causes varying levels of hearing disorder in each ear that slowly gets worse over weeks to months. You may also have ringing in the ears and a feeling of fullness in the ears.
- Meniere’s disease: This chronic condition will cause a hearing disorder that comes and goes, in conjunction with ringing within the ears (tinnitus) and giddiness.
Other causes of sensorineural hearing loss include:
- Diseases of the central nervous system
- Ear structure problems
- The growth of bone in your tympanic cavity, known as an inherited disorder
Most of the time, this type happens slowly. It can happen suddenly, but that's rare. When it happens, doctors believe a virus infection of your internal ear or hearing nerve is also accountable.
Hearing loss typically affects one ear. If yours comes on suddenly, it's a medical emergency. Medicine may be able to treat it.
Infections like the subsequent also can harm the nerves of the ear and cause SNHL:
- Scarlet fever
Some medications, referred to as toxic medications, may additionally cause SNHL. According to ASHA, their over two hundred over-the-counter and prescription medications which will cause deafness. If you’re taking medications for cancer, cardiovascular disease, or a significant infection, talk over with your doctor regarding the hearing risks involved.
Causes of Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss may also occur. This happens when semiconducting deafness and SNHL occur at the same time.
Symptoms and warning signs to watch out for
Hearing loss typically occurs over time. At first, you will not notice any changes in your hearing. However, if you experience any of the following symptoms, you should contact your doctor:
- Hearing loss that interferes with your daily activities
- Hearing loss that becomes worse or that doesn’t escape
- Hearing loss that’s worse in one ear
- Sudden hearing loss
- Ringing in the ear
- Severe hearing loss
- Having ear pain along with hearing problems
You should request emergency medical treatment if you expertise headaches, numbness, or weakness at the side of any of the following:
- Quick breathing
- Neck stiffness
- Sensitivity to light
- Mental agitation
These symptoms might occur with grave conditions that warrant immediate medical attention, like an infectious disease.
Age-Related Hearing impairment
As you age, you experience a number of changes in the way your body functions. Hearing loss might be one of these changes. Hearing loss due to aging could be a common condition that impacts several older adults. Almost one in two adults over age sixty five experience some kind of deafness.
Age-related hearing loss is also known as presbycusis. Although age-related deafness is not a grievous condition, it will have a big impact on your quality of life if left untreated.
Causes of age-related hearing loss
Age-related hearing loss occurs gradually over time.
Various changes within the labyrinth will cause the condition.
- changes in the structures of the inner ear
- changes in blood flow to the ear
- impairment in the nerves responsible for hearing
- changes in the way that the brain processes speech and sound
- damage to the tiny hairs in the ear that are responsible for transmitting sound to the brain
Age-related deafness may also be caused by alternative problems, including:
- poor circulation
- exposure to loud noises
- use of certain medications
- family history of hearing loss
Symptoms of age-related hearing loss
Symptoms of age-related deafness usually begin with Associate in Nursing inability to hear high-pitched sounds. You may notice that you have difficulty in hearing the voices of females or children. You may even have issue hearing background noises or issue hearing others speak clearly.
Other symptoms that may occur include:
- Certain sounds seeming overly loud
- Difficulty hearing in areas that are noisy
- Ringing in the ears
- Asking people to repeat themselves
- Being unable to understand conversations over the telephone
Always notify your doctor if you have any of these symptoms. They could be signs of other medical conditions and should be checked out by a doctor.
How it is diagnosed
If you have got symptoms of age-related deafness, see your ear doctor to diagnose your condition. They will complete a full physical communicating to rule out alternative causes of deafness.
They may also look inside your ears using an otoscope. If your doctor can not realize another explanation for your symptoms, they may diagnose you with age-related hearing loss. They may refer you to a hearing specialist referred to as an audiologist. The audiologist can perform a hearing test to help determine how much hearing loss has occurred.
Treatment of Hearing loss
There is no cure for age-related hearing loss. If you’re diagnosed with this condition, your doctor will work with you to improve your hearing and quality of life. Your doctor may recommend:
- Hearing aids to help you hear better
- Assistive devices, such as telephone amplifiers
In some cases, your doctor may recommend a cochlear implant. This is a small electronic device that is surgically implanted into your ear. Cochlear implants can make sounds somewhat louder, but they don not restore normal hearing. This option is only used for people who are severely hard of hearing.
Age-related hearing loss is a progressive condition. This means it gets worse over time. Even though hearing loss gets worse over time, using assistive devices such as hearing aids can improve your quality of life.
Talk with your doctor about your treatment options. Ask what you can do to minimize the impact of hearing loss on your everyday life. You may additionally wish to think about treatment to stop time period, anxiety, and social isolation that often occur with this condition.
Preventing hearing loss
You may not be in a position to stop age-related deafness. However, you can take steps to keep it from getting worse. If you expertise age-related deafness, try these tips:
- Avoid repetitive exposure to loud sounds.
- Avoid repetitive exposure to loud sounds.
- Control your blood sugar if you have diabetes.
Seek prompt treatment from your doctor if you develop symptoms of age-related deafness. As your deafness will increase, you are more likely to lose your ability to understand speech. However, you will keep this ability, or minimize the loss, if you request early treatment.
Diseases and conditions that lead to hearing loss
A membrane rupture could be a tiny hole or tear in your membrane, or myringa. The tympanic membrane is a thin tissue that divides your middle ear and outer canal of the ear. This membrane vibrates when the waves of the sound entering your ear. The vibration continues through the bones of the center ear. Because this vibration permits you to listen to, your hearing will suffer if your membrane is broken. A busted membrane is additionally known as a myringa. In rare cases, this condition will cause permanent deafness.
Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SSHL)
Sudden sensorineural deafness (SSHL) is additionally referred to as abrupt hearing loss. It happens after you lose your hearing terribly quickly, generally solely in one ear. It will happen instantly or over a span of many days.
During this time, the sound gradually becomes muffled or faint. Frequencies measure sound waves. Decibels are the intensity, or loudness, of the sounds we hear. Zero is that the lowest dB level, which is close to complete silence. A loss of thirty decibels in three connected frequencies is taken into account SSHL.
This means that a deafness of thirty decibels would build traditional sound sort of a whisper. The condition most typically affects people between the ages of thirty and sixty.
About fifty percent of individuals with unilateral SSHL (only one ear is affected) recover among period of time if they get prompt treatment. About fifteen percent of individuals with the condition have deafness that gently gets worse over time.
But, advances in technology used for hearing aids and tube-shape structure implants are serving to boost communication for folks plagued by deafness. SSHL could be a serious medical condition and needs prompt medical attention. Call your doctor quickly if you think that you’re experiencing SSHL. Early treatment can save your hearing.
Middle Ear Infection
A cavity infection, also called otitis media, occurs when a virus or bacteria cause the area behind the eardrum to become inflamed. The condition is most common in children. According to the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, middle ear infections occur in 80 percent of children by the time they reach age 3. Most cavity infections occur throughout the winter and early spring. Often, cavity infections depart with none medication. However, you ought to obtain medical treatment if pain persists otherwise you have a fever.
Otitis Media with Effusion
The salpinx drains fluid from your ears to the rear of your throat. If it clogs, otitis with effusion (OME) will occur. If you have OME, the middle part of your ear fills with fluid, which can increase the risk of ear infection. OME is very common. According to the Agency of Healthcare Research and Quality, about 90 percent of children will have OME at least once by the age of 10.
Foreign Objects in the ear
Foreign objects are also inserted into the body accidentally or deliberately. They are also sometimes swallowed. They can become lodged or stuck in varied elements of the body, such as the ears, nose, eyes, and airways. Children are presumably to urge foreign objects lodged in their body.
Meniere’s illness could be a disorder that affects the inner ear or bony labyrinth. The labyrinth is liable for hearing and balance. The condition causes vertigo, the sensation of spinning. It also leads to hearing problems and a ringing sound in the ear. Meniere’s disease usually affects only one ear.
Meniere’s disease is a chronic disease, but treatments and lifestyle changes can help ease symptoms.Many people diagnosed with Meniere’s illness can get into remission after many years of living a cautious lifestyle.
Ear barotrauma could be a condition that causes ear discomfort thanks to pressure changes. In every ear there's a tube that connects the center of your ear to your throat and nose. It also helps regulate ear pressure. This tube is called the eustachian tube. You may experience ear barotrauma when this tube gets blocked. In environments where the altitude changes, occasional ear barotrauma is common.
While the condition isn’t harmful in some people, frequent cases may cause further complications. It’s important to understand the differences between acute (occasional) and chronic (recurring) cases so you know when to seek medical treatment.
Acoustic trauma is an injury to the bony labyrinth that’s usually caused by exposure to a high-decibel noise. This injury can occur after exposure to a single, very loud noise or from exposure to noises at significant decibels over a longer period of time.
Some injuries to the head can cause acoustic trauma if the eardrum is ruptured or if other injuries to the inner ear occur. The eardrum protects the middle ear and inner ear. It also transmits signals to the brain by way of small vibrations.
Acoustic trauma will injury the manner that these vibrations are handled, resulting in hearing loss. Sound going in the labyrinth will cause what doctors typically decision a threshold shift, which can trigger hearing loss.
Labyrinthitis is an inner ear disorder. The two proprioception nerves in your labyrinth send your brain info concerning your abstraction navigation and balance management. When one amongst these nerves becomes inflamed, it creates a condition referred to as otitis.
Chronic Ear Infection
Chronic ear infection is Associate in Nursing ear infection that doesn't heal. A revenant ear infection will act sort of a chronic ear infection. This is also known as recurring acute otitis media. The house behind the tympanic membrane (the middle ear) is plagued by this infection.
The eustachian tube, a tube that drains fluid from the middle ear, can become plugged and lead to an infection. This buildup of fluid within the bodily cavity presses on the tympanic membrane, causing pain. If an infection progresses quickly or is left untreated it will cause the tympanic membrane to rupture. Eustachian tubes in kids are smaller and more horizontal, so they can become plugged more easily. This is one reason ear infections occur often in children.
Outer Ear Infection (Swimmer’s Ear)
An external organ infection is an infection of the outer gap of the ear and therefore the auditory meatus, which connects the outside of the ear to the eardrum. This type of infection is medically known as otitis externa.
One common kind of otitis is brought up as “swimmer’s ear.” This external organ infection typically results from exposure to water. It’s common in children, teens, and adults who spend a lot of time swimming.
Preventing hearing loss
Not all cases of hearing loss are preventable. However, there are many steps that you just will want to guard your hearing:
- Use safety instrumentation if you're employed in areas with loud noises, and wear earplugs when you swim and attend concerts
- The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders reports that fifteen percent of individuals ages twenty to sixty nine experienced hearing impairment because of repeated exposure to loud noises.
- Have regular hearing tests if you're employed around loud noises, swim often, or attend concerts on an everyday basis.
- Avoid prolonged exposure to loud noises and music.
- Seek help for ear infections. They may cause permanent harm to the ear if they’re left untreated.
Diagnosis and Screening
Tests to diagnose hearing loss may include:
Physical exam: Your doctor will look in your ear for any causes of your hearing impairment, like wax or inflammation from infection. Your doctor will also search for any structural causes of your hearing issues.
General screening tests:Your doctor may whisper in your ear and ask you to cover one ear at a time to check how well you hear words spoken at varied volumes and the way you respond to other sounds.
Tuning fork tests:Tuning forks are two-pronged, metal instruments that manufacture sounds once stricken. Simple tests with standardised forks will help your doctor notice any significant hearing impairment.This analysis might also reveal where in your ear the injury has occurred.
Treatment options available
If you have hearing problems, help is available. Treatment depends on the cause and severity of your hearing impairment.
Removing wax blockage.
Earwax blockage may be a reversible reason behind hearing impairment. Your doctor could take away wax using suction or using sterilized ear wax removal tools.
Some types of hearing impairment are treated with surgery, together with abnormalities of the eardrum or bones of hearing (ossicles). If you've got had continual infections with persistent fluid formation, your doctor could insert tiny tubes to drain out your ears.
If your hearing impairment is because of injury to your receptor, a hearing aid is useful. An audiologist can discuss with you the potential benefits of a hearing aid and suggest the right kind of device.
If you have got severe hearing impairment and typical hearing aids prove ineffective, then a cochlear implant may be an option. A cochlear implant bypasses damaged or non working parts of your inner ear and directly stimulates the hearing nerve. An audiologist, in conjunction with a medical doctor who focuses on disorders of the ears, nose and throat (ENT), will discuss the risks and advantages of cochlear implants with you.
Hearing Loss FAQs: All your concerns addressed
Q. What is the first sign of hearing loss?
A. Most patients suffering from hearing loss initially complain that individuals are mumbling or speaking too quickly. Hearing loss is often accompanied by Tinnitus (Ringing of the year). A buildup of cerumen, medication, exposure to loud sounds and deafness will all cause ringing within the ears, or similar symptoms. The ringing could be constant or occasional, however it's typically the primary sign of deafness.
Q. What causes hearing loss?
A. The most common causes of hearing loss are as follows:
- Excessive noise exposure
- Viral infections
- Ototoxic drugs
Hearing loss can happen due to many factors, but some of the major contributors are age and exposure to noise. Loss of hearing due to age is quite common, the hearing senses begin to weaken around the age of 40 and it gets worse until you reach the age of 80.
Excessive exposure to noise is a consequence of living in disruptive surroundings or voluntarily listening to loud music through earphones, at live concerts, or through a stereo for a long time can contribute to permanent loss. Some of the other causes that can lead to permanent hearing loss include-
- Certain diseases and infections
- Specific syndromes
- Medications and drugs that have negative side effects
- Injuries to the head
- Damage to the ears
- Malformation in the ear
- Genetic causes
- Tumour in the head
- Beans and leafy vegetables
- Dark chocolate
Q. Can you go deaf suddenly or is it always progressive?
A. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (SSHL) can cause sudden deafness. This is one of the reasons when a person becomes deaf suddenly or very quickly. This mostly happens in only one ear.
Q. What level of hearing loss is considered a disability?
A. The hearing loss is classified into mild, moderate, severe, or profound. The severe or profound type of deafness is classified as a disability as it is often irreversible.
Q. How to test for hearing loss?
A. A hearing test is a combination of various examinations, and when they are taken together, these tests can determine if you’re suffering from a hearing loss and to what extent you are suffering from it. A hearing test will be carried out by a medical professional who will use state of the art equipment to check if you are suffering from any hearing issues. You can even opt for online tests to check your hearing, but it’s always best to visit a doctor for a detailed diagnosis.
Q. What vitamins can help with hearing?
A. Vitamin C, E, and glutathione are supplements that can help with reducing the chances of hearing loss. These vitamins keep free radicals in check and strengthen the immune system, thereby reducing the chances of ear infections.
Q.What food can help with reducing hearing loss?
A. Here are some food items that are great for reducing hearing loss-