Hearing impairment is a complicated topic as not all people experience it in the same way. However, it is also a common problem that plagues approximately 30 million Americans, or 13% of the population, over the age of 12.
If you just discovered you have hearing loss, you probably have many questions about options, causes, and cures. While it may be overwhelming initially, there are plenty of people that continue to function perfectly fine with hearing loss and still enjoy the same quality of life.
Here are some answers to the most common questions about hearing impairment and what you can do about it.
What Causes Hearing Loss?
Several problems can cause hearing loss, and while some hearing loss is sudden, other types of hearing loss are slow, and you may not even notice it.
Constant exposure to loud sounds (such as rock concerts, gunshots, or jet engines) over many years is one of the most common reasons for hearing impairment. It explains why about 23.1% of veterans have mild to moderate trouble hearing, whereas only about 13.6% of nonveterans suffer the same fate.
However, genetics also play a role in age-related hearing loss. While it’s essential to protect your hearing throughout your life, some people are more likely to experience hearing loss than others.
Another cause for hearing loss is blunt head trauma, such as a concussion. The middle and inner ear are essential for hearing health, and if those are damaged, it’s almost impossible to hear.
Medications, such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antibiotics such as aminoglycosides, and even large aspirin doses, can also cause hearing loss.
Is There a Cure For Hearing Loss?
Perhaps the most common question after patients discover they may have hearing loss is if there is a cure for hearing loss.
Unfortunately, most hearing loss is not curable. For example, sensorineural hearing loss (typical in people who lose their hearing with age) is not curable because it’s caused by damage to the irreplaceable hair cells in the inner ear.
However, there are some cases where you might be able to cure hearing loss. For example, if you have abnormalities in your middle ear or eardrum, you may be able to undergo surgery to hear again.
Even if you have standard hearing loss, there are still options to enable you to hear more clearly. For example, hearing aids are a great way to improve your hearing instantly, and cochlear implants are also great options for people with severe hearing loss.
What is Ringing in The Ears?
Finally, you may notice that while you can still hear reasonably well, you experience a constant ringing in your ears that nobody else can hear. This is called tinnitus, and it is a sound created in your brain. Tinnitus is caused by the common causes of hearing loss (exposure to loud noise, blunt trauma, etc.), and there is no cure.
However, listening to white noise, exercising regularly, and eating a healthy diet can help. Hearing aids can also minimize the effects of tinnitus and make your life more pleasurable.
Ask an Audiologist
While these are the most common questions related to hearing impairment, you probably have more follow-up questions. If so, don’t be afraid to reach out to an audiologist. You can also take an online hearing test to understand your current hearing level and begin researching hearing solutions.
While hearing loss may seem overwhelming initially, there are ways you can reclaim control over your life.
About the Author
Pauline Dinnauer is the VP of Audiological Care at Connect Hearing, which provides industry-leading hearing loss, hearing testing, and hearing aid consultation across the US.