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The Basics of Hearing Loss

Did you know that about one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 have hearing loss? Hearing loss can be characterized as the sudden or gradual decline in how well a person can hear.

Hearing loss isn’t the same for everyone. In fact, it’s a very individualized and unique experience.

In most cases, hearing loss is the result of the exposure to noise or the natural aging process. However, there are times when illness, genetics, and even medications and medical treatments such as chemotherapy can play a role.

There are a number of early warning signs to pay attention to if you feel that your loved one is beginning to lose hearing. These warning signs include:

  • Asking people to repeat themselves or asking someone to repeat what another person has said
  • Avoiding social occasions in noisy environments
  • Becoming frustrated, impatient and irritable
  • Beginning to lip read in order to understand a person
  • Complaining that people are mumbling
  • Inability to hear a person while on the telephone
  • Listening to the radio or watching TV at a higher volume
  • Straining to hear conversations

If you feel that your elderly family member is experiencing hearing loss, he or she should undergo an audiological evaluation.

The audiologist will begin the appointment by asking a series of questions about hearing and medical history. Next, he or she will use an otoscope –a special light to look into the ear canal – to see if anything will affect the test results. From there, a series of tests will be conducted to determine:

  • If there is hearing loss
  • What’s causing the hearing loss
  • The degree and the configuration of the hearing loss (one or both ears, and how much hearing has been lost?)
  • The best treatment options

Though hearing loss comes in many forms, there are two common categories:

  • Conductive hearing loss – This form of hearing loss occurs when sound waves can’t reach the inner ear. This could be caused by a build-up of earwax, fluid or a punctured eardrum. To restore this type of hearing loss, surgery or medical treatments are both viable options.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss – When the auditory nerve or the inner ear has been damaged, permanent hearing loss is likely a result.

Hearing loss isn’t something that should be taken lightly or ignored. Though your loved one might not want to admit it, hearing loss has the potential to lead to depression or social withdrawal to avoid feelings of frustration or embarrassment due to being unable to understand what a person has said.

If left untreated, hearing problems can gradually become worse. If you believe a family member is experiencing hearing loss, schedule an appointment with his or her ear, nose and throat specialist to help appropriately assess the symptoms.

Check back in the coming weeks to learn more about the viable treatment options for hearing loss.

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St. Barnabas Health System,
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St. Barnabas Health System
5850 Meridian Road
Gibsonia, PA 15044

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