We all know how hearing goes with age: The funny image of an older man using the mouthpiece of a horn as a hearing aid resounds with people who grew up watching Saturday morning cartoons. Losing your hearing has direct effects on your quality of life and everyday activities, but there are things that you can do to protect it.
Florida Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery Center in Orlando and Kissimmee, Florida is led by Wade Han, MD, FACS, and Elvira Livigni-De Armas, AUD, ear health specialists who regularly diagnose and treat anything affecting the ear, as well as offer you the necessary guidance to protect your hearing. Here’s what they want you to know about sensorineural hearing loss.
What’s the deal with hearing loss?
If you’re experiencing hearing loss, you’re unlikely to miss it. Understand that not all hearing loss has a singular cause, but all causes of hearing loss are covered by one of three main categories: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also mention a fourth type of hearing loss, Auditory Neuropathy Spectrum Disorder.
An estimated 36 million people, including around 4 million children and adolescents, experience hearing loss. Around 90% of people experiencing hearing loss have sensorineural hearing loss, or SNHL, making it the most prevalent type of hearing loss. SNHL doesn’t affect one demographic disproportionately, though there are risk factors.
About half of children born with SNHL inherit it from one or both sides of their biological families. Hearing-hostile environments are responsible for a number of cases, as loud noises, particularly for a sustained period of time, can damage sensitive structures in the ear. Having a personal history of ear infections or other illnesses that affect the ears can raise your risk of hearing loss.
How did this happen?
SNHL is the result of damage to the super-fine micro hairs in the inner ear, or to the nerves that connect the ear to the brain. SNHL can happen slowly, over the course of time, or suddenly, which requires a call to your provider at Florida Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery Center as soon as possible.
Aging, or presbycusis, is one of the main causes of SNHL. As we age, everything in our bodies, including the nerves of the inner ear, change, and in some cases, weaken. An estimated one-third of senior people over 65 are suffering from age-related hearing decline. By age 75, that number rises to about half.
Hearing loss has a number of different causes outside of aging and loud noises, though those are the most common causes. If you’re infected with measles, meningitis, lupus, mumps, or thyroiditis, you’re at elevated risk of experiencing hearing loss.
Some people experience hearing loss as the result of a head injury, or an ear injury. Tumors can appear and grow in the ear, and certain antibiotics and chemotherapy drugs can also raise your risk of hearing loss.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of SNHL include:
- Muffled hearing
- Difficulty understanding words, especially in the presence of background noise
- Difficulty understanding the speech of women and children (due to high pitch)
While conductive hearing loss and mixed hearing loss have similar symptoms, the options for treatment for any of the three conditions are different, and each person has unique needs that are best treated by your provider at Florida Ear, Nose, Throat & Facial Plastic Surgery Center.
What can I do about this type of hearing loss?
For some patients living with severe hearing loss, a cochlear implant may be recommended to enhance their hearing abilities. For most patients, we generally recommend a hearing aid and offer several options that might fit their needs.
Your hearing is directly tied to your quality of life. If your hearing isn’t at its best, you’re not able to drive safely, properly assess your surroundings, or simply enjoy conversations with loved ones. If you’re experiencing hearing loss, call either of our Florida offices for a consultation or book an appointment with us online.