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Differential Diagnosis and Treatment of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is an extremely common problem, with around 37.5 million, or 15 percent, of American adults reporting some hearing troubles . It can affect any age group, and two to three of every 1,000 American children born have some degree of hearing loss. Age is generally the firmest predictor of hearing levels in adults, however, with those over 60 more likely to experience issues. In the younger age groups, between 20 and 69 years old, men have almost double the chance of having hearing loss compared to their female counterparts.
Around 28.8 million adults in the U.S. may benefit from the assistance of hearing aids, although less than 30 percent of people aged 70 or over who could benefit from having hearing aids actually use them. This is even worse for adults aged between 20 and 69 as figures show that only around 16 percent of this age group who experience hearing loss use aids, even though many more could benefit from them.
One of the first and most important parts of rectifying this issue is identifying the problem and diagnosing the hearing loss. The ear is made up of three sections. These are the inner ear, the middle, and the external ear. Problems can affect any of these areas - or more than one - and ultimately contribute to issues with hearing loss.
Type of hearing loss
Hearing loss can be divided into two main types and may also be both. These are sensorineural and conductive. The latter is mostly caused by issues such as otosclerosis, which is abnormal bone growth in the ear; cerumen impaction, which is a buildup of ear wax; and otitis media, or ear infections. Sensorineural hearing loss, meanwhile, is often caused by noise exposure, inherited disorder and presbycusis, which is the technical name given to age-related hearing loss.
In simple terms, conductive hearing loss happens when there is an impediment to the conduction of sound in the middle ear, the external ear, or both of these. In contrast, sensorineural hearing loss happens when there are issues in the neural pathways linking what is known as the auditory cortex or within the cochlea. The latter is the spiral-shaped, hollow bone within the inner ear. This bone plays a vital part in a process known as auditory transduction, which is the way in which sound waves become the electrical impulses that human brains can interpret.
Why is the cause of hearing loss important?
The cause of hearing loss is important to know in order to ensure that the right treatment or solution is obtained. Issues like cerumen impaction, for example, may be easily cured by an ear cleaner such as the Innerscope Spray, while the solution for presbycusis may be a hearing aid such as the HearIQ 4 App-Controlled Hearing Aid.
Diagnosing hearing loss
A physical examination is often essential to diagnose hearing loss, along with the answers to a series of questions. These include consideration of such factors as how long the hearing loss has been an issue; whether it started suddenly or is gradually getting worse; whether it is accompanied by other issues such as ringing, pain or dizziness; and family history of hearing loss.
Treating hearing loss
The treatment for hearing loss will depend on what is causing it. There are times when it will improve without any intervention and other occasions where it can be treated using medication or simple procedures. Sometimes sudden hearing loss may be treated with steroids, for example, or the problem may be solved by simply managing the buildup of ear wax using eardrops, microsuction, or irrigation.
There are other occasions when the hearing loss is more permanent, such as the type of gradual loss that is most commonly associated with getting older. The most common solution for this type of hearing loss involves the use of hearing aids, which are the small electronic devices that are worn within the ear to help make sounds clearer and louder. There are various types of hearing aids, including those worn behind the ear, those worn in the opening of the ear, and those that fit in the ear canal.
Another solution to some types of hearing loss is hearing implants. These are usually considered if hearing aids will not work and involve a special device being fitted onto or inside the skull. There are different types of implants, including cochlear implants, bone-anchored hearing aids, middle ear implants, and auditory brainstem implants.