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Gradual Hearing Loss: Signs and Treatment Options

February 25, 2020

Woman listening to music with headphones at the park1 in 5 Americans over the age of 12 suffers from some sort of hearing loss.  1 in 8 have hearing loss in both ears.  These numbers increase dramatically as we get older.  One-third of people 65 to 74 have hearing loss, growing to nearly half of the population age 75 and older.  Hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition in seniors. 

While the causes of sudden hearing loss, like an ear infection, damage from a loud noise, or an injury like a perforated ear drum are easy to identify, the sources behind a gradual reduction in hearing can be less obvious.  Reduced hearing in one ear can be caused by something inside of the ear like fluid, a buildup of skin cells, or a bony growth, known as cholesteatoma.  However, when gradual hearing loss occurs in both ears it is typically due to sustained exposure to loud noises and aging. 

Some types of hearing loss can improve on their own, although, it is a good idea to see an audiologist if your hearing is in decline. For gradual hearing loss, it is often a permanent condition.  However, there are treatment options that can restore your ability to hear.  These include:

  • Hearing AidsHearing aids come in a variety of options. The most common type sit behind the ear.  In-ear hearing aids are smaller and actually fit on the inside of your ear.  In-the-canal hearing aids are even smaller, and go further into the ear.
  • Assistive Listening Devices – There are a number of assisted listening devices that can make it easier to hear and understand sounds.
    • Personal Communicators – Also known as conversation listeners, these devices can help you hear better from longer distances in noisy settings.
    • Personal Hearing Loops – These devices help you listen to music or phone conversations through your hearing aids.
    • TV Amplifiers – This type of device allows you to hear the television directly through your hearing aid, as opposed to turning up the volume.
  • Middle Ear Implants – An MEI, or middle ear implant, is an alternative if hearing aids don’t work well for you. MEIs are comprised of two parts. The first is a component that is attached to the skin and transfers sound into an electrical signal.  The second is a device placed under the skin that receives these signals and sends them to the hearing bones within the ear, creating a vibration.  This implant doesn’t fully restore your hearing; however, it does make sounds clearer and louder. 
  • Cochlear Implants -Severe, permanent hearing loss can be treated with cochlear implants. Cochlear implants work by transforming sound into electrical signals that are sent to the cochlea in the inner ear.  These signals are then sent to the brain and interpreted as sound.  There is a microphone that is placed behind the ear that transfers sound into an electrical signal.  There is also a device inside the skull that receives the signal and sends it to the cochlea. 

Once gradual hearing loss begins to present itself, it can be treated.  It can also be prevented.  Everything from minimizing the volume of your television and radio to wearing ear protection in noisy environments can protect your sense of hearing. 

If you are in the Greater Baton Rouge area and are suffering from signs of hearing loss, contact Lane Audiology Center and request an appointment with audiologist Heather O'Laughlin by clicking the button below.

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