Hearing Loss

Do you think you have a hearing problem?

  • Do you commonly strain to hear conversations?
  • Do you frequently ask for words to be repeated?
  • Do you have problems hearing the doorbell or telephone?
  • Do you misunderstand what others are saying or answer questions inappropriately?
  • Do people often sound as though they’re speaking too softly?
  • Has someone close to you mentioned that you might have a problem with your hearing?
  • Do you turn up the television or radio louder than others would prefer?
  • Do you remove yourself from conversations or social situations because it is difficult to hear what is being said?
  • When you are socializing, does background noise bother you?

Hearing loss can be classified into two categories:

  1. Conductive Hearing Loss – Occurs when sound waves are disrupted before reaching the inner ear. Problems such as earwax, ruptured ear drum, fluid behind the ear drum, or in rare instances, a benign tumor (cholesteatoma) may cause this type of hearing loss. Many times surgery designed to repair the problem can improve conductive hearing loss.
  2. Sensorineural Hearing Loss – Occurs when damage to the inner ear prevents the accurate transmission of sound to the brain. Often this is caused by the effects of noise over a prolonged time; many times at work such as heavy equipment, saws, etc. Other causes include heredity where the hearing loss tends to run in families but may skip generations. With this type of hearing loss patients often report that they can hear others speaking but have trouble understanding the words. This particularly occurs in noisy environments where there is excessive background noise. This type of hearing loss responds well to a hearing aid that amplifies sound to the inner ear.
Do you frequently ask for words to be repeated?
Do you have problems hearing the doorbell or telephone?
Do you misunderstand what others are saying or answer questions inappropriately?
Do people often sound as though they’re speaking too softly?
Has someone close to you mentioned that you might have a problem with your hearing?
Do you turn up the television or radio louder than others would prefer?
Do you remove yourself from conversations or social situations because it is difficult to hear what is being said?
When you are socializing, does background noise bother you?

Hearing is determined by the audiogram.  Various tones are presented to each ear, and you will indicate whether each tone is heard or not. Each ear is tested independently at various tones.  The degree of hearing is calculated in decibels (dB) of hearing loss.  Normal hearing is at least 20 dB or better.  A mild loss is 20-40 dB, moderate loss is 40-60 dB, and severe loss is 60-80 dB.  Profound loss, or near deafness, is 80 dB and beyond.  Hearing loss may be divided into two types: conductive and sensorineural.

A conductive hearing loss is due to abnormalities of the ear canal, eardrum, or middle ear structures, which block the conduction of sound into the inner ear. Therefore, wax in the ear, a hole in the eardrum, or fluid behind the eardrum may cause conductive hearing loss.  Conductive hearing loss is usually treatable and may resolve completely.

In contrast, sensorineural hearing loss, or nerve hearing loss, is due to problems with the inner ear or with the nerve connecting the inner ear to the brain. Sensorineural hearing loss may not be correctable, and is often permanent.  It worsens with age, and is common in the elderly.  However, sensorineural hearing loss can be associated with birth trauma, neurologic disease, trauma to the head, as well as certain medications and toxins.  Sensorineural hearing loss is treated with hearing aids.

Hearing Aids

If sensorineural hearing loss is present, then hearing aids will be advocated.  It is important to understand that hearing aids do not “give you your hearing back”. They merely amplify external sounds to help boost the hearing that still remains.

What if I have an abrupt change in hearing?

Abrupt changes in hearing are considered medical emergencies.   If hearing suddenly changes, you should be seen within twenty-four hours in the ENT clinic. If acute or sudden hearing loss does occur, this will be confirmed by a hearing test.  You will be placed on steroids and possibly an MRI will be performed.

Would You Like to Schedule an Appointment or Need More Information?

We are committed to providing the highest quality otolaryngology and audiology care available anywhere. Please call us at (916) 984-1234, fill out the form on the Contact Us page, or request an appointment