As one of our primary senses, our ability to hear well is something that many of us take for granted. Although hearing loss can occur throughout life, its prevalence increases as we get older. Despite being so commonplace, it is often a health concern that many ignore.
We hear by various mechanisms inside our ears receiving and transmitting sound waves through our inner ear, where our brain interprets them. Hearing loss occurs when one or more of these mechanisms is diminished or entirely ineffective.
What causes hearing loss?
There are several factors which can contribute to hearing loss, usually over an extended period. Some of the most common are:
- Genetics: Symptoms can be inherited from family members with a history of symptoms.
- Aging: The natural degeneration of inner ear structures over time.
- Noise Exposure: Sudden, high levels of sound such as gunshots, or explosions can cause trauma to the Corti organ in the inner ear. Prolonged exposure to loud noises such as rock concerts or on construction sites can cause ‘noise-induced hearing loss’. This occurs when gradual exposure to noise damages hair cells in the ear which receive sound. This damage is irreversible and means the hairs can no longer be properly stimulated by incoming sound signals.
- Head Trauma: An injury sustained to the head can cause hearing loss, especially to the side of the head or the ear itself. Symptoms will occur if the temporal bone is fractured or the ear drum is punctured, for example.
- Ototoxic Medication: Symptoms can be a side-effect of medications used to treat other conditions. These medicines are generally:
- aspirin and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
- chemotherapy drugs
- Aminoglycoside antibiotics, such as streptomycin, neomycin, or kanamycin
Types of hearing loss
Some people experience only a slight drop in volume. This is due to a slight interruption of sound signal between the inner and outer ear, called conductive hearing loss. It can be cause by impacted wax or the failure of one or more components of the ear to transmit sound waves. For children this can be temporary, but adults should seek testing for further treatment if this is experienced.
The most common type is called sensorineural hearing loss. This is permanent and results in a weaker sound signal to the brain because of damage to the inner ear. Someone with this type of hearing loss may complain people are mumbling because the clarity of sound has been decreased. In most cases, treatment for sensorineural hearing loss is not effective.
Your TerryWhite Chemmart pharmacist can help
TerryWhite Chemmart is proud to be partnering with National Hearing Care (NHC), Australia’s leading independent provider of hearing healthcare services, to deliver our FREE Hearing Clinics.
With nearly 300 qualified audiologists and over 300 customer service officers, NHC can offer more clinic appointments in our pharmacies and more flexibility with appointments to suit our customers.
The NHC Campaign runs through August and September and coincides with Hearing Awareness Week in late August each year. The checks are free for customers over 26 years of age and take around 20mins. They generally run over 2 days each week from 9am – 4:40pm.
You can also have mixed symptoms. This is when someone is affected by both above types of hearing loss.
Some cases are accompanied by something called tinnitus, which manifests as a ringing or humming sensation in the ears. Tinnitus is not a condition, but rather a symptom of other kinds of hearing loss.
How the symptoms can affect us
Symptoms of can include:
- Muffled speech and noises
- Difficulty understanding conversation, especially with other ambient noise and, as a result, asking people to speak up or repeat themselves
- Having to listen to the television or radio at a high volume
Because of the social implications, it can also affect patients’ mental wellbeing. Some of the common mental health issues associated with hearing loss are:
- An often-false sense that others are angry with you
- withdrawing from social interactions
General advice only – this information should not replace the information provided to you by your health care professional. If symptoms are severe or persist, please speak to your health care professional. Information current as of date of publishing.
Always check with your pharmacist or medical professional before starting any new medications or supplements, particularly if you have any pre-existing medical conditions, are taking any medications currently, are pregnant or breastfeeding, or researching therapies suitable for infants or children.