What are the different types of hearing loss?
The ear is made up of 3 parts – the outer, middle and inner ear. The type of hearing loss is determined by which part of the ear is affected.
For example, the OUTER and MIDDLE ear allows the sound to be physically transmitted to the inner ear. If this mechanical system is disrupted in any way, e.g. wax blocking the ear canal, a hole in the eardrum, ear infection, fluid in the middle ear or the middle ear bones become fused or dislocated, it would result in what is called CONDUCTIVE hearing loss.
When the INNER ear is affected e.g. by noise exposure, ototoxic drugs, the ageing process, virus or head injury, a SENSORINEURAL hearing loss would occur.
When both the inner and middle/outer ear are affected, e.g. an ear infection is present with an underlying noise induced hearing loss, it is termed a MIXED hearing loss.
Is hearing loss reversible?
Depending on which part of the ear is affected and hence what type of hearing loss is present, determines its treatment.
A conductive hearing loss is often medically or surgically treatable e.g. medication for an ear infection, surgery to patch a perforated eardrum or replace one of the middle ear bones with a piston if one gets fused to allow full vibration again.
A sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of permanent hearing loss and usually cannot be medically or surgically treated.
Where can people go to get their hearing checked? How often should they have their hearing checked?
Anyone concerned about their or their loved ones hearing should consult their nearest independent Audiology practice.
In general, our hearing starts to naturally deteriorate from the age of 50. So it is recommended to have an initial hearing assessment as soon as you start noticing difficulties understanding conversation or if the TV needs to be turned up a bit louder. If a hearing loss is detected, it would be recommended to have annual hearing re-assessments.
How can you prevent hearing loss?
Protecting our ears from loud noise, machinery or power tools with earplugs is the best way to preserve our hearing. Once our hearing is damaged from noise it is usually permanent, so best to protect it as much as possible. Customised earplugs can be made by an Audiologist to provide optimum comfort and noise protection.
Avoiding the use of cotton buds and ear candling to clear wax from your ears is also recommended.
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