According to John Hopkins Medicine, almost 20 percent of people over the age of 12 suffer from some degree of hearing loss. However, statistics show only one out of five individuals who could benefit from the use of hearing aids actually pursue treatment.
With hearing loss being such a common and life-altering issue, it is important that individuals suffering seek treatment as soon as possible.
Treatment options vary greatly depending on a number of factors, including: severity of hearing loss, type of hearing loss and an individual’s lifestyle; and should be evaluated and addressed by a hearing healthcare provider.
Once the hearing loss has been identified and properly diagnosed, the hearing professional might use a handful of treatment options to tackle the problem, including: hearing aids, surgical treatments or medications.
Why treat hearing loss?
According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition facing adults today. Despite being an incredibly debilitating issue, many individuals delay seeking treatment out of denial, fear or embarrassment.
Individuals who suspect they’re suffering from hearing loss should seek treatment as soon as possible. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to a number of other health problems, both physical and psychological.
Untreated hearing loss also is linked to a variety of emotional problems, including anxiety and depression. Individuals with hearing loss often have difficulty following day-to-day conversations and may begin withdrawing from activities and other things they enjoy. Untreated hearing loss can lead to social isolation and the decrease in quality of life if allowed to manifest for an extended period of time.
In addition to the emotional and physical effects of hearing loss, a study by the Better Hearing Institute found households with an employed individual who has untreated hearing loss make up to $12,000 less annually.
There are a number of effective hearing loss treatments available today, including a variety of hearing aids to meet different individual needs.
Treatment for temporary hearing loss
Temporary hearing loss is generally caused by exposure to loud noises or music. Because temporary hearing loss usually wears off within a few hours, treatment options are minimal. Ear plugs are advised to help prevent noise-induced hearing loss and should be worn because prolonged exposure could result in permanent hearing loss.
Treatment for conductive hearing lossGenerally caused by a condition in the outer or middle inner ear, conductive hearing loss is usually temporary. Conductive hearing loss is often the result of ear wax build-up, fluid in the middle ear or a perforated eardrum. Because of the nature of conductive hearing loss, treatment options usually involve medication first to address the specific cause.
In the event medical treatment does not clear up the hearing loss, a hearing healthcare professional will investigate other options, such as hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Treatment for permanent hearing loss
Because permanent hearing loss isn’t reversible, individuals suffering from it will usually need hearing aids.
Sensorineural hearing loss originates in the inner ear and/or auditory nerve and is generally caused by damage to the inner ear hair cells. Because these hair cells do not repair themselves and cannot be medically treated once damaged, sensorineural hearing loss is the most prevalent form of permanent hearing loss.
If a permanent hearing loss is suspected, individuals should seek treatment from a hearing healthcare provider who can help pursue other available options. In fact, studies show 95% of cases of sensorineural hearing loss can be improved using hearing aids or cochlear implants.
Treating hearing loss with hearing aids
The purpose of a hearing aid is to amplify or make a sound louder. While they do not restore hearing, they do improve hearing ability, allowing individuals to communicate more clearly and function better. Hearing aids can be worn behind the ear and in the ear depending on a person’s degree of hearing loss and personal preference.
A person who suspects they might benefit from the use of hearing aids should seek assistance from a hearing care provider.
Healthy Hearing answers: Will hearing aids make my hearing loss worse?
Assistive listening devices
In the event a hearing aid doesn’t address certain situations of an individual with hearing loss, sometimes assistive listening devices can be used to help bridge communication gaps.
Assistive listening devices can improve a hearing aid user’s experience while watching television, listening to the radio or talking on a cell phone. While a hearing aid generally makes all sounds around a person louder, an assistive listening device can hone in on a particular signal.
Using cochlear implants to treat hearing loss
A cochlear implant is a tiny electronic device used to help individuals with severe or total hearing loss perceive sound. Essentially the implant bypasses the normal pathways of hearing in order to directly stimulate the auditory nerve. Cochlear implants differ from hearing aids because they do not make acoustic sounds louder, but rather deliver the acoustic signal as an electrical pulse.
Regardless of whether an individual utilizes hearing aids or cochlear implants, follow-up appointments should be scheduled with their hearing care professional to help the individual adjust to the hearing technology and to ensure the device is working properly.
- Hearing Loss, John Hopkins Medicine, http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/hearing/
- Untreated Hearing Loss in Adults, a Growing National Epidemic, American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, http://www.asha.org/Aud/Articles/Untreated-Hearing-Loss-in-Adults/
- The Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss on Household Income, Better Hearing Institute, http://www.betterhearing.org/hearingpedia/bhi-archives/eguides/impact-untreated-hearing-loss-household-income