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Understanding hearing loss

Hearing loss is a very common medical condition. What’s also common is that it unfortunately often goes untreated due to not recognizing the signs, not taking it seriously, and not wanting to admit it’s something you might now be facing.

Understanding the causes, the signs, and the importance of seeking treatment will help you live a better everyday life. We’re here to support you every step of the way.

What exactly is hearing loss?

Simply put, hearing loss is a reduction in your ability to hear sounds. It can range in severity from mild (struggling to hear or understand speech at a normal volume level) to profound (little to no speech can be heard at normal levels and only loud sounds can be heard).

The three types of hearing loss are:

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL)
Conductive hearing loss
Mixed hearing loss

The most common, SNHL occurs when damage occurs to the inner ear nerves and hair cells, impacting the pathways from your inner ear to your brain. SNHL is permanent and generally can’t be corrected medically or surgically but CAN be treated with hearing aids.

What causes hearing loss?

Hearing loss can develop because of several reasons. Here are some of the most common:
  • Aging (the most common)

  • Exposure to loud noises

  • Certain medications (called ototoxic drugs)

  • Viral infections

  • Acoustic tumors

  • Head trauma

  • Stroke

  • Eardrum damage

Signs of hearing loss

Hearing loss usually happens gradually, so catching it early can be tricky. Here are some signs to watch for that could be early indicators:
  • Trouble understanding conversations in noisy places

  • Difficulty hearing phone calls

  • Difficulty with high-frequency sounds and voices, such as women’s and children’s voices

  • Inability to hear everyday sounds like the ding of the microwave or birds chirping

  • Frequently asking people to repeat themselves

  • Feeling like people are often mumbling

  • Needing the television or radio set to very high volumes

  • Ringing in the ears

What’s tinnitus?

Often referred to as "ringing in the ears," tinnitus has also been described as hearing hissing, roaring, whistling, buzzing, or clicking, and the sounds are only heard by the person experiencing them. It’s an underlying condition of the ear, auditory nerve, or other influencing factor and can be intermittent or constant and at fluctuating volume levels.

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Why you should treat hearing loss?

Hearing loss has a ripple effect that can easily impact the quality of the rest of your life — emotionally, physically, and mentally. 

Impacts to emotional well-being
Not being able to hear the world around you can lead to feelings of isolation, which can turn into sadness and depression, can lead to moments of embarrassment, and can trigger anxiety.

Impacts to physical health
Loss of hearing can lead to physical complications like an increased risk of falling and accidental injuries, as well as other medical complications due to not clearly hearing and understanding medical instructions.

Impacts to mental health
Research has shown that the isolation caused by hearing loss has a direct causational relationship to cognitive decline and increases the risk of dementia by five times.

If you know or suspect you or someone you love is suffering from hearing loss, it’s important to treat it as early as possible to avoid further negative impacts.

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How does hearing loss contribute to dementia?

Isolation

Hearing loss creates a level of social isolation, a known risk factor for developing dementia

source: The Lancet Commissions

Cognitive load shift

To compensate for hearing loss, the brain steals energy needed for memory

source: Frontiers in Psychology

Brain tissue loss

Hearing loss and its impacts on how the brain functions contributes to accelerated brain atrophy and shrinkage

source: Johns Hopkins Medicine

Hearing loss is not uncommon

A prevalent medical issue, hearing loss affects more people than you might realize. 

Better hearing will lead to a better everyday life

Better hearing makes moments more memorable, keeps you engaged, and keeps you connected to the world around you. When you take the step to treat hearing loss, you’ll experience improvements like:

  • Better communication, leading to better relationships

  • More intimacy and warmth in family relationships

  • A regained sense of control over your life

  • An easier time participating in social settings

  • More emotional stability

Ready to take the next step?

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Preventing noise-induced
hearing loss 

While most causes of hearing loss are out of your control, protecting yourself from noise-induced hearing loss is not. Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) can happen because of exposure to a loud sound like an explosion or continuous exposure to high noise levels. The impacts can occur immediately or gradually over time.

Here are some things you can do to protect your hearing and prevent NIHL:

  • Use hearing protection around loud sounds

  • Listen to music and watch television at moderate volume levels

  • Limit time spent around loud noises and take breaks

  • Give yourself time to recover after exposure to loud noises

  • When in the presence of loud noise, distance yourself from its source (i.e., don’t stand directly next to speakers)

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Unsure if you have hearing loss?

Take our FREE online screening and, in just a few minutes, we’ll be able to tell you if we think you have any hearing loss and to what degree — no email or personal data required!

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Learn about hearing aids

Hearing aids come in a variety of shapes and sizes and with a range of features suitable to different levels of hearing loss and different lifestyle needs. A hearing professional will help determine which are best for you.

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