About Hearing Loss
When you start to notice the initial symptoms of hearing
difficultly or hearing loss, it can be confusing and scary.
Once you start experiencing some of these signs, it doesn't mean
you'll lose hearing forever - it just means it's time to come in and see us!
Learn more about the different signs & symptoms and types of hearing loss below.
Ringing in Your Ears
Ringing or buzzing in the ear, also known as tinnitus (pronounced TIN-nuh-tus or tin-EYE-tus), is a complex condition which can have many origins. While it's often a symptom of hearing loss, tinnitus can also be a sign of a larger problem. If you're experiencing ringing or buzzing in the ears, it's a good idea to have your hearing tested to rule out hearing loss as the cause.
There are two theories regarding the cause of hearing loss-related tinnitus, but both involve damage to the nerve endings responsible for hearing. One theory is that the nerve endings in the cochlea are damaged and bent all the time, constantly sending a signal to the brain. The other theory is that the brain is no longer receiving a signal from the damaged nerve endings and is looking for it, similar to phantom limb pain.
Amplification can help manage tinnitus by stimulating your healthy nerve endings in an attempt to mask the sounds generated by your damaged nerve endings.
Difficulty Hearing in One Ear
An asymmetrical hearing loss is defined as a difference in hearing between your ears. Some treatments are time-sensitive, so asymmetrical hearing loss should always be investigated as soon as possible. Both of your ears have been to all of the same places and done all of the same things, so they should hear the same!
Possible causes include viral infections, nerve pathologies, trauma (acoustic or physical), middle ear dysfunction, or an outer ear blockage. In some cases, medical treatment can partially or fully restore hearing.
Asymmetrical hearing can present unique auditory processing challenges, such as decreased ability to localize (tell what direction sounds are coming from), increased difficulty hearing in noisy places, and an overall sense of imbalance. Medically treating or amplifying the poorer ear can often remediate these common problems.
Difficulty Hearing in Crowded Environments
It takes a lot of focus and attention to listen in an environment with competing sound sources. People with normal hearing can use the context of the conversation to fill in most speech that was missed. When the hearing system is compromised, understanding speech in noisy environments is more difficult. Significant amounts of auditory information are missed or misheard and more listening effort is required. This makes the task of hearing in background noise exponentially more difficult, leading to occasionally or completely avoiding interactions in these environments.
We take each person’s attitude towards noisy environments into consideration. Some of us are more tolerant of noisy environments and will allocate more mental resources to listening in challenging environments. At our office we employ multiple tests with background noise to assess your ability to hear speech in noise, and your preferences and tolerance of background noise.
Turning the TV Up Very Loud
Turning up the TV too loud is a classic symptom of hearing loss. As the cochlea is damaged, higher frequency nerve endings deteriorate first, causing difficulty hearing speech. Consonants are often high frequency sounds and carry the intent and meaning of speech. When someone can’t hear TV dialogue, they compensate for their hearing loss by turning the television louder. They are attempting to amplify the sound from the TV beyond their hearing loss. This is a technique that works well if you live alone, but often family and friends are bothered by the increased volume!
Assistive listening devices (ALDs), such as TV headsets or personal speakers can provide that amplification as well. The TV volume increases and the ALDs are non-customized and will amplify all frequencies. Hearing aids are customized to selectively amplify the frequencies where there is hearing loss and prescriptively apply the amount of amplification needed.