In this post you will find comprehensive information about causes and prevention of hearing impairment.
When hearing loss becomes dangerous
If you are still far from old age, and your sense of hearing is not the same as before, you need to visit a doctor. Perhaps this is a symptom of an illness that can be prevented by immediate medical intervention.
Hearing loss symptoms
It became difficult for you to talk in noisy places or in a crowd, and you prefer to interrupt such a conversation or not to communicate with people in such situations.
The volume level that you set when listening to music on headphones is higher than before. Sometimes the drum rhythm or guitar in your favorite songs sounds somehow wrong.
You increase the volume of the TV.
Quite often ask others to repeat what has been said or to speak more clearly, because you cannot hear them the first time.
You avoid talking on the phone, because you cannot hear people.
If you find at least 2-3 of these symptoms, then you are having a hearing impairment. To understand how serious it is and whether there are ways to reverse hearing loss, it is necessary to understand some details about the process of hearing in humans.
Process of hearing in humans
Ear – the structure of human ear is more delicate and sensitive than many would think.
Human ear consists of three parts (we will not go into details, the description is schematic)
1. External ear
Includes the auricle and the auditory canal. They capture and concentrate sound waves, sending them deep into the ear.
2. The middle ear
It includes the tympanic membrane and associated with it are three tiny bones. The membrane vibrates under the influence of sound waves, and the movable bones catch and intensify these vibrations and transmit them deeper into the ear.
The middle ear cavity is connected with the nasopharynx by means of the so-called Eustachian tube. This is necessary to equalize the air pressure inside and outside the tympanic membrane.
3. The inner ear
It is a so-called webbed labyrinth inside the temporal bone. This spiral canal is one of the most important parts of the bony labyrinth.
The labyrinth is filled with liquid. When the bones of the middle ear impart vibrations here, the fluid also begins to move. And it disturbs the finest hairs that cover the inner surface of the cochlea. These hairs are connected to the fibers of the auditory nerve. Their vibrations turn into nerve impulses, which our brain interprets as: “Oh, I hear something!”
Hearing loss causes
Causes of hearing impairment are diverse. Any damage, inflammation, modification in each of the three parts of the ear leads to the condition in which the body loses the ability to correctly capture sound signals and send them to the brain.
Here are the most common causes of hearing loss.
1. Age related hearing loss
With age, sensitive hairs in the cochlea wear out and cease to respond accurately to fluid fluctuations within the webbed labyrinth. As a result, elderly people often suffer from a constant indistinct hum in their ears and hearing loss.
2. The habit of listening to loud music with headphones
Loud sounds, like age, damage the sensitive hairs and nerve cells of the inner ear.
A powerful sound attack (for example, fireworks, which was just around the corner, a rock concert, a very loud party in a nightclub) can cause barotrauma due to the stretching or even rupture of the eardrum. When stretching, the ability to hear after a while comes back by itself. But with a rupture of the tympanic membrane, there need be serious medical intervention.
4. Sulfur plug or other foreign objects in the auditory canal
A feeling of stuffiness in the ear can be caused by inflammation of the ear, formation of pustules by sebaceous glands, or the water that got into the ear after bathing. All this obstructs the auditory canal, interfering with the correct penetration of sound waves into the eardrum.
5. Infections of the external auditory canal
They cause inflammation and swelling, again narrowing the auditory canal.
6. Various otitis media
Otitis is the inflammatory process of the viral or bacterial nature that develops in the ear. Depending on what part of the ear is affected with the disease, physicians distinguish between the outer, middle and inner (labyrinthite) otitis.
This is a dangerous condition that causes not only temporary hearing loss, but also complete loss of hearing. Therefore, at the slightest suspicion of otitis, it is important to consult a doctor as soon as possible.
7. Mumps, measles, rubella
These infections aggressively attack the inner ear and can lead to complete deafness.
8. Addiction to cleaning ears with cotton buds agressively
Doctors categorically warn against putting cotton buds too far in the ear. With one careless movement, you can push ear wax deep in and block the eardrum or damage the sensitive skin of the auditory canal, causing inflammation.
Sometimes the cleaners manage to even perforate the eardrum or damage the auditory ossicles, which is can lead to not a partial, but full loss of hearing in at least one ear.
9. Taking certain medications
High doses of aspirin, other pain killers, antimalarials and a number of diuretics can cause tinnitus, noise or ringing in the ears. Fortunately, this is a temporary phenomenon that passes as soon as you give up your medication.
Other drugs, such as antibiotic streptomycin and some chemotherapy drugs, can damage the inner ear. But this is serious: if you did not recover from hearing loss, it is important to consult a doctor ASAP and, if possible, to replace the ototoxic drug.
10. Diseases accompanied by high fever
A fever can damage the nerve cells of the inner ear. Therefore, the temperature, especially rising above 38.5 ° C, is best treated ASAP.
11. Physical trauma of the head
Blows to the head can cause damage to the middle and inner ear.
This is the disease of the middle ear, in which the auditory ossicles increase in size, and their movements become more difficult. This means that they cannot correctly impart the vibrations of the tympanic membrane into the inner ear.
13. Autoimmune and other diseases
Autoimmune diseases of the inner ear, Meniere’s disease, all kinds of tumors, and a spectrum of diseases the side effect of which is hearing loss, can lead to hearing impairment.
Treatment for hearing loss
What is the treatment for hearing loss? To answer this question, it is necessary to discuss your case specifically with a Otolaryngologist. They will find out the hearing loss causes in your case.
If the reason lies in the sulfur plug, inflammatory processes and other injuries affecting the external ear, the prognosis is favorable. In most cases, it is sufficient to eliminate the cause: ear irrigation, helping the ear canal to get rid of the water that has got into it, or treating the ear infection.
If the cause affects the middle ear, some complications are possible. Damage to the tympanic membrane or, for example, otosclerosis may require surgical intervention and prolonged rehabilitation. Fortunately, modern medicine has learned quite successfully to cope with these problems.
The inner ear is the most difficult case. If the labyrinth is not amenable to treatment, then it is impossible to restore the hairs and nerve cells that have worn with age or from excessive love of loud music. Therefore, the person with hearing loss needs to resort to radical methods – the installation of hearing aids or cochlear implants. These are quite expensive devices and procedures.
How to prevent hearing loss
Unfortunately, this is not always possible. Genetics, autoimmune diseases, head trauma are causes of hearing loss that cannot be prevented.
However, there is still something you can do to prevent hearing loss.
Avoid too noisy concerts and shows.
Do not turn the headphones on loud.
If you work in noisy environments, are fond of shooting or riding a motorcycle, be sure to use earplugs or protective headphones.
Allow your ears to rest – spend more time in silence.
Do not ignore suspicious pain in the ears. Ear pain might have been caused by otitis or another disease.
If you have a cold, clean your nose regularly. Suction of mucus can cause the infection to rise up to the eustachian tube to the ear.
Do not push cotton buds into your ears
Make sure that you are vaccinated with a PDA vaccine (a complex drug against measles, mumps, and rubella).