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Hearing health: loss & effects
Hearing loss is a very common problem. More than 500 million people worldwide experience some degree of hearing loss. As noise levels increase everywhere, the number continues to rise. Prolonged exposure to high intensity noise at work and at home is resulting in hearing loss becoming more common at an earlier age.

Our ability to hear affects how we communicate and connect with others. For this reason, social and emotional effects often accompany symptoms of hearing loss.

Most people who use hearing aids have improved social lives. The use of hearing aids is associated with reductions in anger, frustration, paranoia, anxiety and overall improvements in emotional stability.

Types and Degrees of Hearing Loss
There are three main types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural and mixed, and each type affects a different part of the ear. Some people are effected by hearing loss in only one ear. It is important that you visit a qualified hearing healthcare professional to diagnose your type and degree of hearing loss.

Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves are blocked in the outer ear or middle ear and cannot reach the inner ear – where hearing is still normal. Causes of conductive hearing loss include middle ear infection (Otitis Media), calcium build up around the middle ear bone (Otosclerosis), build-up of earwax or fluid due to colds. If left untreated, conductive hearing loss can result in permanent impairment.

Sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss accounts for 90% of adult hearing problems. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the hair cells in the cochlea (inner ear) become damaged and sound cannot reach the brain where it is processed. Causes include aging, repeated exposure to excessive noise without proper hearing protection, diseases like mumps, meningitis, multiple sclerosis or Ménière's disease, drugs (i.e. cisplatin, quinine or certain antibiotics) or rubella (German measles) contracted during pregnancy. Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent. Hearing aids can help in most cases.

Mixed hearing loss
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural hearing losses. Conductive loss can be treated through medicine or surgery; sensorineural hearing loss is permanent, but can benefit from hearing aids.

No useable hearing in one ear
Significant or total hearing loss in one ear is also referred to as an unaidable ear or Single Sided Deafness (SSD). It can be caused by such things as: illness, head trauma, tumors (acoustic neuroma) or hereditary disorders. This type of hearing loss greatly reduces people’s awareness of sound on their poor ear side and can be very debilitating. The good news – there are treatment options available.

Causes of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss happens when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ear. Hearing loss is not like listening to sounds with the volume turned down. Instead, certain sounds or tones are more difficult to hear than others.

Hearing loss happens when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ear. Hearing loss is not like listening to sounds with the volume turned down. Instead, certain sounds or tones are more difficult to hear than others.

Causes of hearing loss can include:

Aging: Hearing loss is a natural part of aging. Between the ages of 30 to 40, the hair cells in the inner ear begin to die. By the age of 60 to 65, about 30% of the population has a hearing loss that is significant enough to affect their ability to hear everyday sounds, such as speech. Hearing loss ranges from difficulty hearing soft sounds or understanding speech to complete deafness. For approximately one in 10 people, the hearing loss eventually reaches a point where hearing aids are required.

Exposure to noise: Exposure to noise that can damage your hearing happens at home and the workplace. Certain occupations such as industrial workers, musicians, firefighters, police officers, farmers and construction workers spend a large part of their working day exposed to high levels of prolonged noise. Everyday you are exposed to noise at home with the use of hair dryers, vacuum cleaners, MP3s, surround sound speakers, leaf blowers, lawnmowers, and more.

Other causes: Disease, ear infections, certain medications, heredity or physical damage can also play a role in hearing loss.

The majority of people with hearing loss can significantly improve their ability to hear and their quality of life with the use of hearing aids. Untreated hearing loss can result in communication, social and emotional signs of hearing loss:

Important Things to Know
Shorter conversations
Less use of the telephone
Others need to repeat themselves
Going along with conversations
Avoidance of groups and strangers
Becoming silent and withdrawn
Less effective performance at work
Embarrassment
Anger
Frustration
Anxiety
Depression

Symptomatic similarities of Alzheimer’s disease and untreated hearing loss.

Alzheimer’s Disease
Depression, anxiety, disorientation
Reduced language comprehension
Impaired memory (esp. short-term memory)
Inappropriate psychosocial responses
Loss of ability to recognize (agnosia)
Denial, defensiveness, negativity
Distrust and suspicion regarding other’s motives

Most hearing loss goes unnoticed because of its gradual onset. Family and friends tend to notice there’s a problem before the person with hearing loss does. Persons with hearing loss often realize how much they have been missing once they get help. Signs of hearing loss may include:

People seem to mumble
Asking others to repeat themselves
Difficulty following conversations when the background is noisy or when in group situations
Children's and women's voices are difficult to understand
Being able to hear people talk but having difficulty understanding the words
The TV or radio are turned up louder than normal
High pitched sounds such as birds, crickets and bells cannot be heard
Family, colleagues and friends suggest you might have a hearing problem
You often hear a ringing or buzzing in your ears

Untreated Hearing Loss
Depression, anxiety, feelings of isolation
Reduced communication ability
Reduced cognitive input
Inappropriate psychosocial responses
Reduced mental scores
Denial, heightened defensiveness, negativity
Distrust and paranoia (e.g., belief that others may be talking about them)

A hearing healthcare professional will help you choose the best solution for your particular hearing loss and lifestyle needs. Consistent use of hearing aids, combined with effective communication practices, can help people with hearing loss live full, socially involved lives.

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