From the audiologist: Live in the hear and now
Sensorineural hearing loss, the ability to hear faint sounds, is a treatable condition.
Hearing loss is an invisible condition. We can’t see it by looking at someone, but we can certainly see its effects. When a person has hearing loss, their ability to communicate becomes compromised. They may ask for repetition, answer inappropriately or even isolate themselves from social interaction to avoid embarrassment and frustration from repeated communication breakdowns. We all know someone with hearing loss. Approximately one out of eight Americans report some degree of hearing loss. That statistic jumps to one out of three after the age of 65.
The most common form of hearing loss we see in-club from members is sensorineural hearing loss. It’s the result of damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear and/or to the auditory nerve due to noise exposure, aging, certain diseases, injury and some medications. This type of hearing loss is permanent in nature, and therefore cannot be treated with medication or surgery. The best way to manage the effects of a sensorineural hearing loss is to be fitted with appropriately programmed hearing aids by a licensed audiologist or hearing instrument specialist.
Hearing loss not only impacts the person with the loss, it also affects everyone they communicate with.
It can be frustrating for both parties if there is a constant need for repetition, raised voices or loud volume on the television.
Some common signs of sensorineural hearing loss include:
- Difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments (restaurants, parties)
- Feeling that people are “mumbling” or not speaking clearly
- Frequently asking for repetition
- Turning up the volume on the TV louder than others
- Difficulty understanding on the phone
- Increased difficulty with women’s or children’s voices (higher toned)
- Avoiding social events because of hearing difficulty
Hearing loss, in most cases, tends to increase over time. As a person continues to live with hearing loss without receiving treatment, they are depriving the brain of the auditory stimulation it is wired to receive. This is called auditory deprivation, which means that the auditory nerves and hearing part of the brain essentially weaken, or atrophy, due to lack of stimulation. This makes the ability to interpret speech increasingly difficult.
Think of someone with a broken arm. When the cast comes off, the muscles have atrophied due to lack of use and need to be exercised in order to be built back up. The same process occurs with hearing loss, and amplification is the tool to build up the auditory system.
The longer auditory deprivation occurs without treatment, however, the more difficult it becomes to treat. Therefore, the key to preserving hearing is keeping the auditory pathways active and stimulated through properly fit hearing devices. Like the old saying goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it!”
Hearing is truly one of the joys in life. If you or a loved one suspect a hearing loss, don’t hesitate to schedule an appointment for a hearing evaluation. This test will be able to diagnose the type and severity of your hearing loss and provide an appropriate treatment plan.