Hearing loss falls into one of three categories: conductive hearing loss, nerve-related hearing loss and mixed hearing loss. Dr. John Austin ENT has been providing Austin with superior care for 20 years and treating the loss of hearing is just one of the many conditions that Dr. John Austin treats.
The ears are distinguished by three portions: external, middle and internal. All areas of the ear work together to provide you with the ability to hear. The process begins with the external ear, known as the pinna. Ribbed cartilage composes the pinna and sound funnels through the pinna to the external auditory canal. The external auditory canal is a short tube that ends at your eardrum. The eardrum, and the tiny bones contained in that area, vibrate because of the sound and the vibrations are carried to part of the inner ear, known as the cochlea. Your cochlea transforms sound into nerve impulses and these nerve impulses continue on to the brain. Your ear is not only responsible for your ability to hear, it also affects your sense of balance and head position.
What is Hearing Loss?
The loss of hearing is quite normal as a natural result of the aging process. The Mayo Clinic estimates that nearly 25% of Americans aged 55 to 64 have some degree of lost hearing. While the losing some ability to hear is associated with age, it affects younger individuals as well. The Hearing Loss Association of America states that “about 20% of Americans, 48 million, report some degree of hearing loss.” It is “[e]stimated that 30 school children per 1,000 have a hearing loss.” The loss of hearing is the third most frequent medical condition in the United States, following arthritis and heart disease.
Types of Hearing Loss
The Hearing Loss Association of America recognizes three distinct types of hearing loss:
- Conductive hearing loss
- Sensorineural hearing loss
- Mixed hearing loss
Each of these types have different causes and treatments specific to them.
Conductive hearing loss is “when hearing loss is due to problems with the ear canal, eardrum or middle ear and its little bones (the malleus, incus and stapes.” These problems may be caused by:
- Benign tumors
- Deformity of outer ear, ear canal or middle ear structures
- Ear canal infection
- Fluid in middle ear (generally as a result of colds)
- Foreign object in the ear
- Impacted earwax
- Perforated eardrum
Sensioneural hearing loss occurs “when hearing loss is due to problems of the inner ear, also known as nerve-related hearing loss.” Possible causes include:
- Autoimmune inner ear disease
- Head trauma
- Inner ear deformity
- Loud noise exposure
- Meniere’s disease
Mixed hearing loss “refers to a combination of conductive and sensioneural hearing loss. This means that there may be damage in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve.”
The symptoms experienced vary from based upon the type of hearing loss and between individuals. However, some of the hallmark symptoms indicative of loss of hearing include:
- Avoiding social settings due to hearing problems
- Constantly asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly or asking them to repeat themselves
- Difficulty understanding consonants
- Difficulty understanding individual words (especially when background noise is present)
- Muffled speech or other sounds
- Requiring radio or television to be set at louder volumes
- Withdrawing or not participating in conversations
If these or other symptoms are present, it is advised to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Treatments for loss of hearing are dependent upon the type and cause of the problem. A few of the most common treatments are:
- Earwax blockage removal
- Surgical procedures
- Hearing aids
- Cochlear implants
The Hearing Loss Expert You Need
Dr. John Austin provides each and every patient with only the highest quality care. With 20 years of experience in the Austin area, Dr. Austin has the knowledge and experience you require. Because Dr. Austin realizes your time is precious, he has several office locations in order to provide you with more convenience when seeking treatment. If you believe you are experiencing symptoms of hearing loss, contact Dr. John Austin at one of his locations today.