Even though hearing loss is an issue with the ears it actually has far reaching implications for mental, emotional and physical health. Hearing impairments can hinder communication, affecting many aspects of relationships, and opportunity.
Some hearing impairment is considered congenital, meaning it was present at birth, while a hearing loss is considered acquired.
An acquired hearing loss is defined as the loss of hearing that occurs or develops some time during a person’s life but was not present at birth. Causes of congenital hearing loss are often due to complications during pregnancy or birth such as infections, viruses, low birth weight, drug use while pregnant, maternal diabetes, high blood pressure or genetics.
Acquired hearing loss has many causes as well, some that can be controlled and some that are out of control. When you understand the risks of developing acquired hearing loss you can take more precautions to prevent the development of these often irreversible symptoms.
Exposure to Excessive Noise
One of the most common causes of hearing loss is exposure to loud noise. When sound reaches your inner ear, it is picked up by tiny hair cells which transform sound into electrical impulses and transmit them to the brain. The brain can process conversation as well as a sound’s original location.
When sounds become too loud they have the potential to damage hair cells in the inner ear permanently. Sound is measured in decibels and as decibels rise above 85, noise has the potential to cause permanent damage to your hearing. It is not just the level of the sound but the time exposed.
A low level of damaging noise can take years to induce acquired hearing loss, however as the decibel level rises the time it takes to injure your ear becomes less. A good example is that 85 decibels in a work environment, eight hours a day could take a decade to cause noticeable hearing damage, while a gun shot at close range could significantly reduce hearing ability in just a few seconds.
Ototoxic chemicals are chemicals which can damage your hearing. Ototoxic medications can damage the tiny hair cells of the inner ear. Some of the most common ototoxic drugs include, some cancer treatment drugs, some antibiotics and some diuretics. While these drugs may put your hearing at risk, they also may be needed in life threatening situations. Speak to your doctor about the risks to your hearing and decide for yourself if they are worth the risk. Other ototoxic medications include anti-inflammatories, such as tylenol and ibuprofen which reduce pain and swelling. Every now and then these drugs are okay to take in cases where pain is uncomfortable but it’s best to not make a habit of taking these medications. In addition to medications, ototoxic chemicals may be in plastics, paints, cigarette smoke, car fumes, pesticides and some cleaners. Be aware of the chemical you expose yourself to in a work or living environment. Too much exposure can have irreparable effects to your hearing.
Most ear infections will swell the ear canal, sometimes causing hearing damage. However, as these ear infections clear up hearing generally returns to normal. However, there are instances where ear infections are chronic and can damage hearing permanently. This is present particularly among children. The longer an ear infection is left to progress the more likely it is to cause permanent acquired hearing damage.
While it is not always possible to avoid head trauma, steps can be taken to protect yourself. Some of these precautions include wearing a hard hat or helmet when the risk is increased, such as in a construction zone, while riding a recreational vehicle or while engaging in some sports. An impact to the head has the potential to affect the ear canal itself causing permanent hearing damage. An impact can also cause Traumatic Brain Injuries(TBI) which may damage the area of the brain that receives auditory information, causing hearing loss in the brain.
Even though many cases of acquired hearing loss are irreversible this does not mean that it cannot be treated. Hearing aids can amplify lost hearing and send it to your inner ear to be processed by your brain. To find out if hearing aids could work for you, make an appointment to have your hearing tested today!