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Many people suffer from hearing loss...
In fact, the latest available statistics show that over 10% of the U.S. population reports difficulty hearing! That's more than 31 million people! And as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, that number promises to increase dramatically!
Are you one of those millions of people who does not hear as well as they once did? If so, you are certainly not alone. Consider these statistics reported by Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Better Hearing Institute:
- 3 in 10 people over age 60 have hearing loss;
- 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41-59), or 14.6%, have a hearing problem;
- 1 in 14 Generation Xers (ages 29-40), or 7.4%, already have hearing loss;
- At least 1.4 million children (18 or younger) have hearing problems;
- It is estimated that 3 in 1,000 infants are born with serious to profound hearing loss.
In addition, studies have linked untreated hearing loss to emotional, physical, mental, psychological and even economic disadvantages! And, to make matters even worse, there are many "myths" about hearing loss that prevent those with hearing loss from doing anything about it.
Types of Hearing Loss and their Causes
There are three main types of hearing loss:
Conductive Hearing Loss:
- Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound does not reach the hearing nerve. Blockage in the ear canal, lesions of the tympanic membrane (eardrum) or problems with the ossicles (hearing bones) can all produce conductive hearing loss.
- Ear canal disorders:
- Wax impaction
- Congenital narrowing or absence of an ear canal
- Infections or narrowing of an ear canal (swimmers ear)
- Eardrum (tympanic membrane) and Middle Ear Disorders:
- Inflammation (myringitis)
- Holes (perforations)
- Infection (Otitis media)
- Fluid (effusion)
- Ossicles (hearing bones) Disorders
- Congenital (since birth) Disorders
- Erosion (dissolved) by infection
- Fixation (lack of vibration) by abnormal bones such as Otosclerosis
Nerve (Sensorineural) Hearing Loss:
- Nerve (sensorineural) hearing loss occurs when the nerve endings (hair cells) in the inner ear (cochlea), the main auditory (hearing) nerve, or the brain connections do not function properly to carry the electrical sound signals to the brain.
- Sensorineural hearing loss disorders:
- Congenital (birth) deformities of the nerve
- Noise damage
- Ototoxic (drug effect)
- Auto-immune (body inflammation)
- Trauma (fractures)
- Age (presbycusis)
- Tumors (acoustic tumors)
- Meniere's Disease (inner ear fluid disorders)
- Mixed Hearing Loss:
- Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
There are several different treatment options depending on the cause of the hearing loss. It is best to make an appointment with one of our physicians to explore the best option for you. However, for conductive types of hearing loss, the following may be suggested:
- Myringotomy and Tubes: Drainage of the middle ear by placing a small tube in the tympanic membrane (eardrum) can effectively drain fluid, permit ventilation and treat hearing loss from middle ear fluid
- Tympanoplasty: This microsurgical procedure is used to repair perforations (holes) of the tympanic membrane (eardrum). Often this procedure is combined with mastoidectomy or ossicular reconstruction.
- Mastoidectomy: This procedure removes infected mastoid bone behind the eardrum. This procedure is often needed in cases of cholesteatoma.
- Stapedectomy: This microsurgical procedure (often with a lasar) replaces the immobile stapes bone with a small metal and plastic prosthesis. The restoration of the vibrations of the ossicles (ear bones) is a very successful procedure for hearing restoration.
- Ossicular Chain Reconstruction: This procedure is often combined with tympanoplasty to restore the function of the ossicles (hearing bones) damaged by infection or trauma.
For sensorineural hearing loss the following treatment may be suggested:
- Medical Therapy: Salt and caffeine avoidance are often helpful to restore the normal fluid balance of the inner ear and prevent hearing fluctuations. In some cases steroids and strong anti-inflammatory medications can restore hearing.
- Transtympanic Dexamethasone: Inner ear inflammation can sometimes be reversed with steroids placed directly into the middle ear. From there the medication diffuses across the round window membrane into the inner ear. Pittsburgh Ear Associates has found dramatic results with this medical therapy for certain types of nerve hearing loss. This procedure is able to be performed right in the office.
- Hearing Aids: Hearing aids have become the standard in sensorineural types of hearing loss treatment. With the advancement in digital technology along with the very small size many patients have found much success. Please visit our Hearing Aid Center section for more information.
- Implantable Hearing Aids: There are several new innovations in implantable hearing aids. Visit our Implantable Hearing Devices section for more information.
- Cochlear Implants: These devises bypass the damaged inner ear in patients who experience little to no benefit from hearing aids due to the extensive damage to the cochlea. Please visit our Cochlear Implant section for more information.
Want to Learn More?
Click here to discover how you hear.
Click here to take a "Hearing Assessment Quiz."
Click here to learn what happens during a hearing test appointment.
Click here to learn about digital hearing instruments.