There is an estimated 36 million Americans with some degree of hearing impairment. Some people are born with hearing loss, others acquire the condition later in life. Hearing loss is the third most common health condition behind arthritis and hypertension. There are different types of hearing loss depending on which section of the ear is causing the impairment.
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear (cochlea). This type of hearing loss is permanent and irreversible. Causes of sensorineural hearing loss include aging, ototoxic medication, genetic predisposition, noise exposure, Meniere’s disease, autoimmune disease, and health conditions that may interrupt blood flow to the ear such as heart disease and diabetes. In very rare cases it can also occur due to a growth on the acoustic nerve. The primary treatment is hearing aids.
Conductive hearing loss, occurs when there is a blockage of the normal sound pathway to the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss may be related to ear wax, ear infections (otitis media), trauma to the head or ear, or otosclerosis a condition that affects the bones of the ear. Treatment options for conductive hearing loss should be discussed with an experienced ENT physician.
Sudden Hearing Loss
Sudden hearing loss (SHL) is often a frightening symptoms that should prompt an immediate call to see a physician. It is important to note that the accurate identification of sudden hearing loss may improve your chances for hearing recovery. Proper diagnosis should include audiometric testing to distinguish if the type of hearing loss is sensorineural or conductive. An MRI may also be warranted to rule out other possible causes of hearing loss. When sudden hearing loss occurs, it may be diagnosed as idiopathic sudden sensorineural hearing loss (ISSNHL). ISSNHL affects 5 to 20 per 100,000 in the population, with about 400 new cases per year in the United States. If you believe you are experiencing sudden hearing loss, please call for an immediate appointment. At Sonoran ENT, sudden hearing loss is treated as an emergency and you will be made an appointment the same day.
Tinnitus is defined as the perception of sound that appears to come from one or both ears, but is not related to an external stimulus. The sound can be reported to be ringing, buzzing, humming, crickets, roaring, and more. It can be present in one or both ears. It is estimated that 50 million Americans have some degree of tinnitus. Prior to any treatment, it is important to undergo an examination and evaluation by an ENT physician and audiologist. An essential part of treatment will be understanding tinnitus and its many causes.
Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease. It may be caused by different parts of the hearing system. The outer ear may be involved when there is excessive earwax causing pressure on the eardrum. Middle ear problems such as ear infections (otitis media), otosclerosis and middle ear muscle spasms can cause tinnitus. Most tinnitus is associated with the inner ear and changes or damage to the tiny hair cells in the cochlea. Damage to these hair cells can occur due to noise exposure, ototoxic medications, and age-related changes to the ear. Rarely, tinnitus can occur from lesions on or in the vicinity of the hearing portion of the brain or hearing nerve, including vestibular schwannomas (acoustic neuroma) and damage from head injury. Tinnitus that is pulsatile, like a heartbeat, should be evaluated as soon as possible as there are chances of vascular tumors that can cause this specific type of tinnitus. Non-auditory conditions and lifestyle factors have also been associated with tinnitus. These non-auditory related tinnitus can include temporomandibular joint arthralgia (TMJ), depression, anxiety, insomnia, and muscular stress and fatigue.
There is currently no cure for tinnitus, but Sonoran ENT offers several solutions to help manage the symptoms and adverse effects. If the ENT physician finds a specific cause for your tinnitus, they might be able to offer specific treatment to eliminate the noise. This may include removal of ear wax, treatment of middle ear fluid, or treatment options for TMJ. Another treatment for tinnitus is called masking, or Sound Therapy. Sound Therapy’s purpose is to make the tinnitus less noticeable, especially in quiet, by producing an alternative sound that can make your own tinnitus less prominent. There are various types of Sound Therapy systems, some include hearing aids with built in masking. Other strategies that may be beneficial include acupuncture, counseling (cognitive behavioral therapy), and prescription medications. The ENT physicians and audiologist at Sonoran ENT can help find the solution that might best address your needs.