Hearing loss might sound a little scary, but its a common ailment, affecting most of us as we age. Hearing loss can also be caused by ear wax in your ears, tinnitus, loud noises and disease, but most commonly it is caused by aging. Once we hit around 30-40 years of age, our hearing begins to deteriorate and unless we deal with it, our quality of life can also deteriorate. In fact the National Foundation for the Deaf Inc. quote that 50-60% of New Zealanders over the age of 60 have some degree of hearing loss.
Here we look at what hearing loss is, how it affects most of us, and how you can change your life to the better by dealing with your hearing loss.
What is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss is the loss of clarity and loudness in hearing the sounds around you. If you struggle to hear work colleagues, your partner and loved ones, the TV or radio and other day-to-day sounds then it is likely you suffer from some degree of hearing loss.
Types of Hearing Loss
The two most common types of hearing loss are Sensorineural and Conductive, Sensorineural making up more than 90% of all cases of hearing loss.
Sensorineural loss is caused by damage to the haircells in the inner ear. The cochlea is unable to pick up the vibrations or send the electrical impulses to the brain. It is typically the result of the natural ageing process and usually occurs in both ears.
Conductive loss is caused by an obstruction in the outer or middle ear that block off the sound waves as they move towards the inner ear. The most common form of conductive hearing loss is due to an accumulation of earwax, abnormal bone growth, middle ear infections or a perforation of the eardrum.
Causes of Hearing Loss
The most common cause of hearing loss is the natural ageing process, driven by the wear and tear of the hair cells in the cochlea. The deterioration starts between ages 30 and 40 and follows a continuous decline as we age.
Apart from ageing, noise-induced hearing loss is also very common. This can be due to continued exposure to unhealthy noise levels (such as work noises), sudden damage (such as a loud noise close to the ear) or other kinds of exposure (such as overuse of phones, tablets etc).
Hearing loss can also be hereditary or the consequence of an accident, an infection or a disease.
The process of hearing loss is gradual so most people don’t even notice it occurring.
Some forms of temporary hearing loss also exist, normally due to having a cold, excessive ear wax, and change in pressure (such as flying or diving). In these instances, hearing loss is normally self-corrected within a few days.
Unfortunately most forms of hearing loss cannot be cured, only assisted with hearing aids.
How do we Test for Hearing Loss?
A hearing test is the most common way to assess someone’s ability to hear at any given frequency. The result is an audiogram; a graph with frequency (in Hz) and volume (in dB) on either axis.
The curve essentially tells you how soft a sound has to be for you to be able to hear it – and hence how much correction (i.e. amplification) you need for any given frequency.
The normal hearing threshold is 20dB; people who fall below this are considered to have some form of hearing loss. The categorization of loss is as follows:
|Mild||20 – 40dB|
|Moderate||41 – 55dB|
|Moderately Severe||56 – 70dB|
|Severe||71 – 90dB|
We offer free hearing tests at our Christchurch Clinic, if you are concerned about your hearing give us a call and book your hearing test today. We can help you find the perfect hearing aids for your specific hearing loss, whether you are looking for a Behind the Ear amplifier, or In the Ear Canal amplifier. All our hearing aids are top quality, with the latest designs and technologies – at a fraction of the price you will get elsewhere. We don’t cut quality, just the cost.