Signs and Types of Hearing Loss

In most cases, hearing loss occurs gradually and subtly, with the warning signs going unnoticed. Other times, the signs are significant and the hearing loss occurs suddenly. Either way, it is good to know the signs of hearing loss and be on the lookout. Any of the following signs might be an indicator of impending hearing loss.

Medical signs

  • Your family has a history of hearing loss.
  • You regularly take medication that may negatively affect the auditory system.
  • You are regularly exposed to very loud sounds for extended periods of time or you have been exposed to an explosive sound.
  • You suffer from diabetes, circulation, heart or thyroid problems.

Social signs

  • You frequently require others to repeat what they said.
  • Following a conversation involving more than two people is often a challenge.
  • It often sounds like other people are mumbling or muffled.
  • You tend to lip read or watch other’s faces as they speak to you.
  • You often experience a ringing sound in your ears.
  • You have to struggle to hear in noisy environments such as a train terminus, a restaurant or a crowded room.
  • You always turn up your TV or radio volume.
  • You can’t seem to hear what children are saying.

Emotional signs

  • You often feel drained and tired because of having to struggle to hear what other people are saying.
  • You often get annoyed at others because you either can’t hear them or understand what they are saying.
  • You tend to shy away from social situations because you don’t want to struggle to hear what others are saying.
  • Having to listen to people talk makes you nervous.
  • You often experience embarrassment for not hearing or understanding what other people are saying.

Types of hearing loss

There are three basic types of hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss: This is the most common kind of hearing loss. It is caused by problems of the sensory and or neural structures within the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss results in reduced sound intensity as well as distortion of whatever is heard, especially in noisy environments. Currently, this kind of hearing loss is permanent. It cannot be reversed through any medical interventions. Fortunately, people experiencing sensorineural hearing loss can still use hearing aids to hear properly. This kind of hearing loss may potentially be caused by aging, long exposure to loud noises, head traumas, malformation of structures of the inner ear, genetics, illnesses or use of medicines that may damage the ear.

Conductive hearing loss: This kind of hearing loss occurs when a physical condition or disease keeps sound from being passed to the inner ear from the outer or middle ear. In most cases, the cause of the problem can be found and treated, allowing a person to regain partial or complete hearing. In case a person is unable to regain complete hearing, hearing aids can be used to compensate for any remaining hearing loss. This kind of hearing loss may be caused by wax blockage, ear infections, foreign objects getting lodged in the ear, fluid behind the ear drum, a ruptured ear drum or ear trauma. In rare cases, it may be caused by tumors behind the ear.

Mixed hearing loss: This means that the hearing loss is caused by both a sensorineural problem and a conductive problem. In this case, medical intervention can be used to treat the conductive component of the problem. Hearing aids can then be used to compensate for the remaining hearing loss.

Degrees of hearing loss

Different people may experience different levels of hearing loss. The more severe the loss the harder it gets for a person to hear quiet sounds. Below are the different degrees of hearing loss:

Mild: This is the most common degree of hearing loss and in most cases it remains undiagnosed. A person with this kind of hearing loss can hear a humming refrigerator, but they may have a challenge hearing a whisper or the rustling of leaves. They may also miss out on hearing consonant sounds or conversations from children or women, especially in noisy environments. They end up having to concentrate more in order to follow a conversation.

Moderate: A person with this kind of hearing loss struggles to follow normal conversations in most settings unless they use hearing aids.

Severe: A person with this kind of hearing loss would struggle hearing a vacuum cleaner or hair dryer. This means that they can hardly follow any conversations. They cannot even hear loud speech without using hearing aids.

Profound: A person with this kind of loss cannot hear any speech. They can only hear very loud sounds, such as a motorcycle that is about 25 feet away. For such a person, following a conversation is difficult even with hearing aids. They have to depend on sign language and lip reading.