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Hearing Problems

Overview


The ability to process and perceive sounds brings both meaning and quality to life; however, when your ability to appreciate sound begins to decline you are no longer allowed to enjoy the quality of life you desire. A significant number of adults experience varying degrees of hearing loss at some point in their lives. Early diagnosis and work with a medical specialist is an essential first step in the successful treatment of hearing loss and restoration of your life satisfaction.

Definition


Hearing loss is the partial or complete inability to hear sounds. This loss can be experienced in either one or both ears and can happen slowly or abruptly.


Often, our ability to hear decreases naturally with age. In fact, up to 60% of Americans over the age of 65 experience some degree of hearing loss.


If you are experiencing hearing loss you may not yet be aware of it, but there are signs you can look for. The National Hearing Aid Society recommends that you have your hearing checked if you experience any of the following:


• Desire to turn up the volume on devices such as televisions to the extent that others object
• Increased effort to hear conversations
• Need to have others repeat sentences 
• Misunderstanding conversations
• Watching others faces when they talk to understand
• Physical effects such as repeated ear infections, ringing in the ears or dizziness

 

Causes


Hearing loss can result from genetic, congenital (inborn), infectious and lifestyle origins. Temporary hearing loss may specifically be a result of allergies, ear infections and injuries, wax-buildup and other causes your doctor can best identify.


You may be at risk for hearing loss if you have or experience any of the fallowing:


• Exposure to loud noises due to heavy machinery, gunfire or attending concerts
• Exposure to certain drugs including aspirin, ibuprofen and some antibiotics. 
• Chronic ear infection
• Head injury
• Allergies
• Pressure changes (Barotrauma ) 
• Family history of hearing problems, diabetes, heart disease, circulatory or thyroid problems

Symptoms


While hearing loss may not always be noticeable, typical symptoms may be present. Symptoms of hearing loss may include:


• Difficulty understanding what is being said (often first noticed over the telephone)
• Repeated earaches 
• Dizziness
• Excretion of pus and/or blood from ear
• Buzzing sound (Tinnitus)

Types

Types of hearing loss are organized into two basic categories: Conductive hearing loss (CHL) and Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL).  Conductive hearing loss is related to mechanical problems in the outer or middle ear while Sensorineural hearing loss concerns the middle ear. In most cases Conductive hearing loss can be reversed, while Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent.
 

Conductive Hearing Loss

 

Conductive hearing loss is a result of failures in the physical structures of the ear. Three tiny bones in the ear, referred to as ossicles, may not be conducting sound properly or the eardrum may not be vibrating as it should in reaction to the sounds. The nerve centers in the inner ear then do not receive the proper sound impulses and hearing is impaired. With conductive hearing loss sounds are consistently more soft than normal, as if there were a physical covering over your ears such as your hands. Generally this type of hearing loss is less common than Sensorineural hearing loss. Common causes include wax blockage, fluid in the middle ear, a hole in the tympanic membrane, ear infections, birth defects and heredity. Medication treatment or surgery can correct some conductive hearing loss and a hearing aid may be recommended.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Problems with the tiny hair cells inside the ear lead to Sensorineural hearing loss. These tiny hair cells are actually nerve endings, which usually are responsible for transmitting sounds throughout the ear. When the cells do not function correctly hearing is impaired. The cells may have been injured, impaired, prematurely dead or simply do not function properly.

 

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of age-related hearing loss because the hair cells often deteriorate with age. The cells can be damaged by fluid buildup in he ears, a high fever, birth defects and exposure to extremely loud noises. High frequency sounds may be hard to hear such as consonants sounds of “s”, “t”, “f”, and “th”. Sensorineural hearing loss can be very uncomfortable. The ear becomes sensitive to loud sounds to a painful extent and buzzing sensations may also occur. Sensorineural hearing loss is usually not reversible however hearing aids offer compensation for some of the hearing loss.

Diagnosis

 

Only a medical professional can properly diagnosis your specific condition. Your doctor may screen for physical abnormalities through a variety of straightforward examinations. He will also incorporate risk factors such as your family and medical history together with examination results to establish your exact diagnosis. An exact diagnosis will allow Dr. Michael Sherbin to provide you appropriate treatments options and work with you to establish the treatment approach that best fits your personal needs and lifestyle.

Treatment 

 

Treatment of hearing loss will be dependent upon what your medical specialist determines to be the cause and type. We strive to make your visits with us as comfortable as possible while providing you with the highest quality of medical treatment. We offer many medical and surgical treatments to meet your unique needs. Medical treatments include the use of prescribed antibiotics, steroids and eardrops. These medicines can offer painless yet effective treatments to many temporary hearing loss concerns. Surgical treatments may involve draining of fluid from the middle ear to allow sounds to be heard with greater ease. With a wide variety of treatments offered, Dr. Michael Sherbin will work with you to determine the best treatment option for your specific hearing loss concerns.