Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is serious, yet manageable, conditionNearly one in every five Australians has a hearing loss. While hearing impairment becomes increasingly noticeable over time, it is best to be aware of the earliest signs and seek treatment as soon as possible. 

Hearing loss affects each person differently. Some people experience difficulty understanding quiet speech while others only struggle to hear speech if there is excessive background noise.  If not addressed properly, all types and severities of hearing loss can affect a person’s quality of life.
 



Signs of hearing loss

People often misunderstand hearing loss. They imagine that with a hearing loss, the volume of the world would gradually decline until everything was completely muted. In reality, people actually lose their ability to hear specific frequencies, allowing them to hear certain frequencies better than others. This could be compared to vision loss, where people can see more clearly at varying distances.

Our clients frequently have trouble understanding speech, especially if there is competing background noise. Because of the varying frequencies of sounds, they may hear but not understand what people are saying.  If you believe you are experiencing hearing loss, consider taking a few moments to complete our online hearing tests.

 

Types of hearing loss

While each experience with hearing loss is unique, the physical development of the condition can take one of three forms: sensori-neural, conductive, or a mixture of the two. 

 

Conductive hearing loss

A conductive hearing loss occurs when problems in the middle or outer ear prevent sound from travelling to the inner ear in the usual way. This can be caused by:

  •  An excessive amount of earwax in the ear canal
  •  An infection within the middle ear that has caused fluid to collect
  •  A perforated eardrum
     

Conductive hearing loss symptoms

The overall volume of sound is reduced for someone with a conductive hearing loss. Those living with a conductive hearing loss can typically hear sounds clearly if the volume is sufficient. People experiencing this type of hearing impairment may:

  • Need to turn the volume of the TV or radio to high levels
  • Frequently ask people to repeat themselves
  • Hear better with one ear than with the other

 

Depending on the cause of the hearing loss, other symptoms might include:

  • Pain in one or both ears
  • Drainage from the ears
  • Pressure or blockage

 

Sensori-neural hearing loss

When it comes to hearing impairment, sensori-neural hearing loss accounts for the majority of cases. A sensori-neural hearing loss results from damage that has been caused to the sensory hair cells or nerves within the inner ear. Common causes of sensori-neural hearing loss include:

  • Genetics – A family history of hearing loss
  • Exposure to loud noises – Over an extended period of time or abruptly
  • Ageing
     

Less common causes of this condition include:

  • Reactions to medications which are toxic to your ear
  • A tumour forming on your auditory nerve
  • Congenital causes – A condition you acquire before birth
  • Infections – Conditions such as meningitis or mumps
  • Diabetes
  • Vascular disease
     

Sensori-neural hearing loss symptoms

If someone has a sensori-neural hearing loss, they may potentially hear people speaking, but not understand what they are saying.  Someone suffering from this type of hearing loss may exhibit the following behaviours:

  • Asking people to repeat themselves frequently
  • Difficulty following spoken directions
  • Believing people are always mumbling
  • Increasing the volume when listening to music or watching TV
  • Finding it particularly difficult to hear when there is background noise

 

People living with this condition can experience every level of hearing loss, from mild to severe. In most cases, hearing aids are the preferred means of treatment. 

 

Mixed hearing loss

There are occasions when people experience a loss of hearing due to a combination of sensori-neural and conductive hearing losses. For example, a person's ability to hear could be reduced because of damage to their inner ear along with a current ear infection. 

 

Hearing loss caused by noiseTime it takes for noise to cause hearing damage

Loud worksites such as factories, construction sites, or sound stages will require that their employees wear protective, noise cancelling headphones. 

Prolonged high noise levels and sudden loud noises can cause damage to the ear. This damage can happen immediately or gradually over a long period of time. Even personal stereo systems, if played at very high volumes, can cause hearing problems over time.

Because men generally work in louder workplaces, they are more likely to experience hearing loss than women.

The picture on the right shows how long it takes to damage your hearing at different sound levels from various sound sources.

 

Low pitched sounds vs. high pitched sounds

You may find you can hear sounds at a lower pitch much better than higher pitched sounds, regardless of their volume. This is because different receptors within your cochlea are responsible for receiving and transmitting sounds at different frequencies.

The sensory hair cells responsible for picking up high pitched sounds are located near the opening of the cochlea, while the low pitch receptors are located deeper within. The high pitched receptors are in a more vulnerable position and experience more long term damage from the waves of fluid within the cochlea, while the low pitch receptors have more protection. This is why generally the ability to hear higher pitched sounds becomes more difficult over time.
 

Protecting yourself against noise damage

If you know you are going to be in an environment with loud noise, protect yourself with earplugs. For your safety, it is best to use custom fitted earplugs.

 

Free hearing appointment

Call 5443 6633 between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm, Monday to Friday to book your free, no obligation hearing appointment.  The free hearing appointment is valid for people aged 55 years or older.  We have clinics located throughout the Sunshine Coast at Maroochydore, Buddina, Caloundra, Cooroy, Noosa Heads and Nambour.  We also have a clinic at Gympie.