Hearing loss is a condition that is often associated with aging, however it is present in newborns, children, teenagers, young adults, and adults. Some people are born with hearing loss, others acquire the condition later in life. There is an estimated 36 million Americans with some degree of hearing impairment. Hearing loss is the third most common health condition behind arthritis and hypertension.
There are three categories of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed.
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. Most of the time sensorineural hearing loss is gradual over many years, and will affect the ability to hear high frequencies. The most common complaint from people with this type of hearing loss is that they can hear, but not always understand clearly. The primary treatment is hearing aids. Sudden-onset hearing loss is considered an ENT emergency and should be evaluated the same day, or as quickly as possible.
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.
Mixed hearing loss occurs when there is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
Hearing loss of all types can vary in the degree of severity. Degree of hearing loss is classified into the following categories: mild, moderate, severe, and profound. Untreated hearing loss can negatively impact a person’s life and lead to feelings of isolation and anxiety. The proper evaluation and treatment of hearing loss is important so that the problem does not become worse over time.
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. Tinnitus is a symptom, not a disease. Some of the causes of tinnitus are hearing loss, noise exposure, ototoxic drugs, neck and head trauma, TMJ, and cardiovascular disease. It is estimated that 50 million Americans have some degree of tinnitus.
There is currently no cure for tinnitus, but Sonoran ENT offers several solutions to help manage the symptoms and adverse effects. One of the most common and effective methods for managing tinnitus is called 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 and special masking products. In addition to Sound Therapy, there are other strategies that may include acupuncture, counseling, prescription medications, and dental appliances. The ENT physicians and audiologist at Sonoran ENT can help find the solution that might best address your needs.