Hearing loss shouldn’t be confused with deafness though they are often used interchangeably. The term hearing loss is used when a person is unable to hear things at varying levels of severity. Hearing loss can either be temporary or permanent, and the causal factors are many.
Conductive hearing loss: Conductive hearing loss is a problem with the outer or middle ear that prevents sound from reaching the inner ear. Built-up earwax, fluid, or a punctured eardrum can all cause this. It is often a more temporary form of hearing loss and can be treated with medical or surgical intervention.
Sensorineural hearing loss: This type of hearing loss can be caused by damage to the inner ear or to the nerve pathways that connect the inner ear to the brain. Sadly, it is often permanent and occurs mainly in older adults. Sensorineural hearing loss is usually caused by being exposed to loud sounds, genetic influences, and age.
Interestingly, sensorineural loss of hearing can also occur as a side effect of certain medications. A recent example would be the Tepezza Hearing Loss Lawsuit, where the drug Tepezza from the company Horizon Therapeutics was found responsible for hearing loss in several users.
Daniel Weibel, one of the first to file a lawsuit against the Ireland-based company, claimed that he wasn’t made aware of the risk of tinnitus and hearing loss. Though still in the early stages of the trial, the Tepezza hearing loss lawsuit is likely to be one of the biggest class action lawsuits.
What Are the Different Types of Hearing Loss
- Noise-induced hearing loss: Noise-induced hearing loss is caused by exposure to loud sounds for prolonged periods. This can include working in a loud environment, such as a construction site or factory, attending loud concerts or sporting events, or using power tools or other loud machinery.
This is one of the most common causes of hearing loss, and the WHO predicts that about 1 billion people are at risk of hearing loss as a result of too much loud music.
NIHL can occur suddenly, such as after a single exposure to a loud explosion, or gradually over time with repeated exposure to loud noise. Symptoms of NIHL include difficulty hearing in noisy environments, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and difficulty understanding speech.
- Age-related hearing loss: Age-related hearing loss, or presbycusis, is the result of natural aging in which the hair cells in the inner ear start to deteriorate.
This can lead to difficulty hearing high-pitched sounds, such as the voices of women and children, and difficulty understanding speech in noisy environments.
- Ototoxic drugs: As mentioned above, certain medications, such as certain antibiotics, cancer treatments, and diuretics, can damage the inner ear and cause hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is known as ototoxicity.
Symptoms of ototoxicity can include ringing in the ears (tinnitus), dizziness, and difficulty hearing. Ear infections: Ear infections can cause damage to the ear and result in hearing loss.
Ear infections can be caused by bacteria or viruses and can occur in the outer ear, middle ear, or inner ear. Symptoms of an ear infection include pain, drainage from the ear, and difficulty hearing.
- Trauma: Physical trauma to the ear can cause hearing loss. Trauma can include a head injury, a punctured eardrum, or a skull fracture. In some cases, the trauma can cause a temporary loss of hearing, but in other cases, it can result in permanent hearing loss.
- Hereditary: Hearing loss can be inherited from parents, and some specific genetic conditions can cause hearing loss.
These conditions include Usher Syndrome, Waardenburg Syndrome, and Alport Syndrome. Symptoms of hereditary hearing loss can vary depending on the specific condition, but they can include difficulty hearing, ringing in the ears, and difficulty understanding speech.
How Can Hearing Loss Be Prevented?
Preventing hearing loss is essential in maintaining overall health and well-being. The most effective ways to prevent hearing loss are to protect your ears from loud noise, maintain good overall health, monitor medications, get regular hearing tests, avoid head trauma, and monitor chronic ear infections.
By taking these steps, you can reduce your risk of developing hearing loss and preserve your ability to hear for years to come.
- Protecting your ears from loud noise: One of the most effective ways to prevent noise-induced hearing loss is by avoiding or limiting exposure to loud noise.
This can include wearing earplugs or noise-canceling headphones in loud environments, such as at concerts or sporting events, and turning down the volume on personal listening devices, such as music players or smartphones.
- Maintaining good overall health: Hearing loss can be caused by eating unhealthy foods, not getting enough exercise, and smoking or drinking too much alcohol. By eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and avoiding smoking and alcohol, you can greatly reduce your risk of hearing loss.
- Monitoring medications: Some medications can be toxic to the ears, so it’s important to be aware of the potential side effects of any medication you are taking. If you suspect that a medication you are taking is causing hearing loss, speak with your doctor or a hearing healthcare professional.
- Getting regular hearing tests: Regular hearing tests can help to detect hearing loss early, which can allow for early intervention and treatment. If you are over the age of 50 or have a family history of hearing loss, it is recommended to have your hearing tested regularly.
- Avoiding head trauma: Trauma to the head can cause hearing loss. To prevent head trauma, it is important to wear protective gear when participating in contact sports and to avoid activities that may cause head injuries.
- Monitoring Ear infections: Chronic ear infections can lead to hearing loss. If you have a history of ear infections, it’s important to monitor them and seek medical attention if you suspect an infection.
How Can Hearing Loss Be Treated?
Treating hearing loss has always been a little expensive and complicated, with no 100% guarantee to completely restore hearing. However, there are still many ways to address hearing loss.
- Hearing aids: While science hasn’t advanced far enough to make this an easily treated condition, OTC Hearing aids have been getting more accessible and less expensive. Hearing aids amplify sounds and make them louder, which can help improve hearing in people with mild to severe hearing loss.
- Cochlear implants: These are a form of assistive listening devices that, instead of being worn behind the ear, are surgically implanted.
- Assistive listening devices are devices that help to amplify sounds and make them clearer. They can include devices such as personal amplifiers, telephone amplifiers, and television listening systems.
- Surgery: In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat hearing loss. This can include procedures to remove earwax, repair a perforated eardrum, or reconstruct the ear canal.
- Medications: Certain medications may be prescribed to help with certain types of hearing loss, such as antibiotics for ear infections, or to reduce symptoms associated with hearing loss, such as tinnitus.
Hearing loss can affect people of all ages and can be caused by a lot of factors. The good news is that treatment options are starting to get more accessible and affordable even if we are not yet at the point where we can restore 100% hearing.
By understanding the causes and treatments for hearing loss, individuals can take steps to protect their hearing and preserve their ability to hear for years to come. Regular hearing tests are also important to detect hearing loss early, which can allow for early intervention and treatment.