Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss: Diagnosis and Treatment information for patients in the Mesa and Phoenix areas

Hearing loss affects millions of Americans, though very few seek treatment. Most people do not understand exactly how or why it is that they are having a harder time understanding conversations or hearing the television. There are many different causes of hearing loss, and there are different treatment methods for each. Learn more about the different kinds of hearing loss below or contact Fynes Audiology for hearing loss treatment in the Mesa and Phoenix area.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss is the result of sound waves being blocked before they can reach the mechanisms of the inner ear, which are still functioning normally. This kind of hearing loss is rarely very severe, and results in an overall muting of sound across all frequencies. Most conductive hearing loss is not permanent, and treatment for patients of Fynes Audiology in the Mesa and Phoenix areas can include medication or surgery. However, if left untreated, conductive hearing loss can lead to permanent impairment.

Causes

There are several different causes of conductive hearing loss, including:

Otitis Media- Also called a middle ear infection, otitis media is the most common cause of hearing loss in children. When the middle ear becomes inflamed due to a virus or respiratory infection, the ear drum is prevented from vibrating properly and hearing is impaired. Most cases of otitis media can be cured by antibiotics, though in some particularly persistent cases, the most effective hearing loss treatment is a surgical procedure including the use of tubes for ventilation.

Otosclerosis- Otosclerosis is caused by the inability of the stapes—tiny bones within the middle ear—to move properly due to calcium buildup. In some cases, the stapes can actually become attached to the surrounding bone by abnormal bone growth. Otosclerosis can happen spontaneously to anyone, but is most common in those who have a family history of the condition. Over 90 percent of patients with otosclerosis regain normal hearing through surgical treatment.

Temporary Blockage- This problem can take many forms, and rarely requires surgery to fix. Temporary blockages can include earwax, fluid due to colds or outer ear infections such as swimmer’s ear, and allergies. Hearing loss treatment for our Mesa and Phoenix patients with temporary blockages often involves either medication or cerumen (earwax) removal.

Other Causes- Other causes of conductive hearing loss can include the perforation of the ear drum, fractured bones in the middle ear, or tumors. Depending on the type and severity of the problem, different treatments will be proposed. Perforated ear drums, for example, will often heal by themselves.

If you think you may be suffering from conductive hearing loss, contact Fynes Audiology today to schedule a comprehensive hearing evaluation.

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Sensorineural Hearing Loss

The most common reasons for hearing loss in adults fall under the sensorineural category. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the cochlea (inner ear) or the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain have become damaged by the natural passage of time. Sensorineural hearing loss is not treatable by either medication or surgery, making the hearing loss permanent. Most patients with sensorineural hearing loss find that the most effective treatment involves hearing aids.

Causes

The causes of sensorineural hearing loss include:

Presbycusis- Presbycusis is simply the medical term for hearing loss caused by the toll of the natural aging process on the components of the cochlea. The cochlea is a shell-shaped organ filled with fluid, with tiny hairs which detect movement caused by sound waves and turn that movement into electrical impulses sent to the brain. Everyone loses hair cells inside the cochlea as they age, and by age 65 approximately 30 percent of people have difficulty hearing everyday sounds such as speech due to presbycusis. Unlike conductive hearing loss, which affects all sound frequencies nearly evenly, presbycusis affects the higher frequencies first, making it difficult to differentiate between common speech sounds.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss- Exposure to loud noises over extended periods of time is among the most common causes of hearing loss, and frustratingly the most preventable. Each exposure to loud noise will cause some sort of temporary hearing loss; without treatment or preventative measures, prolonged exposure results in gradual, painless, and permanent hearing loss.

Noise volume is measured in decibels (dB). Consistent exposure to sounds exceeding approximately 80 dB is considered to be potentially damaging to hearing. The chart below will help give you an idea of what sounds are considered too dangerous for regular exposure.

  • Sound Level (dB)         Example
  • Faint
  • 30 – whisper, quiet library
  • Moderate
  • 50 – rainfall, quiet office, refrigerator
  • 60 – dishwasher, conversation
  • Very Loud
  • 70 – traffic, vacuum cleaner, restaurant
  • 80 – alarm clock, subway, factory noise
  • 90 – electric razor, lawnmower, shop
            tools, subway
  • 100 – garbage truck, chain saw, stereo
            system set above halfway mark,
            snowmobile
  • Extremely Loud
  • 110 – rock concert, power saw
  • Painful
  • 120 – jet takeoff, nightclub, thunder
  • 130 – jackhammer
  • 140 – shot gun
  • 180 – rocket launching pad

Other Causes- Ototoxic medication, medications that have the potential to cause toxic reaction in the inner ear structure, can also be tied to sensorineural hearing loss. Be sure to ask your doctor before starting any new medication. Head injuries, diseases such as German measles and meningitis, and genetic disorders can also cause sensorineural hearing loss.

For more information about this type of hearing loss, as well as treatment options at our Mesa practice serving Phoenix and surrounding communities, schedule a consultation with Roger Knighton or Cassandra M. Fynes today.

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Implications of Hearing Loss

Untreated hearing loss will eventually lead to problems beyond difficulties in understanding conversations or picking up sounds in noisy environments. Untreated hearing loss can result in social and personal insecurity, as individuals suffering from hearing loss often become uncomfortable in social settings.

Many people soon find that their conversations become shorter, and some begin to avoid the telephone. Problems communicating with family, friends, and co-workers lead people to avoid large groups and strangers, and can lead some to withdraw from their social networks, and even decrease their work productivity. The emotional toll can be the greatest, as it can lead to anger and frustration, loss of concentration and confidence, and anxiety and depression.

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If you find yourself having problems understanding conversations or hearing television programs, contact Fynes Audiology today to learn more about hearing loss treatment options in the Mesa and Phoenix areas.

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