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Hearing loss is a common condition affecting millions of people worldwide. It can occur at any age and is caused by various factors. If left untreated, hearing loss can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. In this blog, we will discuss the first signs of hearing loss, what causes it, and what you can do if you suspect that you or someone you love is going through this experience.

What Causes Hearing Loss?

There are several factors that can contribute to hearing loss, including:

    • Aging: As we age, it is natural for our hearing to decline. This is known as age-related hearing loss.
    • Exposure to loud noises: Also known as noise-induced hearing loss. Repeated exposure to loud noises, such as those found in factories, concerts, and sporting events, can damage the tiny hair cells in the ear that are responsible for translating sound waves into electrical signals for the brain to understand. 
    • Genetics: Some people are born with hearing loss or may be more susceptible to it due to their family history.
    • Medical History or Illness: Certain medical conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, meningitis, mumps, and measles, can increase the risk of hearing loss.
    • Occupation: People who work in noisy environments, such as construction or manufacturing, have an increased risk of hearing loss.
    • Medications: Some medications can damage the inner ear, like high doses of aspirin, pain relievers, and antimalarial drugs.

There are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, or mixed. Each condition impacts different parts of the ear and has unique symptoms.

What is the First Sign of Hearing Loss?

The first sign of hearing loss is often difficulty hearing or understanding conversations, especially in noisy environments. You may also have to ask people to repeat themselves more often or find that you turn up the volume on your TV or radio louder than usual.

Other symptoms of hearing loss include:

  • Struggling to hear on the phone
  • Difficulty understanding women’s and children’s voices (higher pitches)
  • A ringing, buzzing or humming in the ears (tinnitus
  • Your ears feel clogged (which can happen when you have wax or fluid build-up)
  • Withdrawing from social situations due to difficulty hearing
  • Exhaustion after social events because of the extra effort it takes to hear conversations
  • You watch people’s lips during exchanges rather than making eye contact

The Impact of Hearing Loss

Hearing is one of our five senses, and experiencing a decline can significantly impact how we adjust to life. It can make it challenging to communicate with others and affect your ability to work and earn a living. Here’s a look at how hearing loss can impact an individual in more detail:

  • Communication: Hearing loss can make it difficult to have conversations with others, leading to misunderstandings, frustration, social isolation, and decreased social interactions. It can also be challenging to follow lectures, presentations, or group discussions, impacting a person’s ability to learn and succeed in school or work.
  • Quality of life: This condition can also affect a person’s overall well-being and life enjoyment. It can make it hard to participate in activities and hobbies involving listening, such as watching movies, listening to music, or attending live events.
  • Mental health: Difficulty hearing can lead to anxiety, depression, and loneliness because you may feel more isolated or be unable to cope with the changes you experience.
  • Physical health: Hearing loss has been linked to an increased risk of falls because of a lower awareness of surrounding environments. This decline can also affect a person’s ongoing physical care as they may avoid seeking medical attention if they are unable to communicate effectively with their healthcare provider.

Can Hearing Loss Be Reversed?

Hearing loss can sometimes be reversible, but this is typically only possible with conductive hearing loss. This condition can occur because of infection, earwax, or fluid buildup, which impacts the outer or middle ear. However, in most cases, hearing loss is permanent.

What Can You do to Recover Hearing Loss?

If the hearing loss is reversible, treatment may include earwax removal, medication, or

surgery. If the hearing loss is permanent, there are several options available to help improve hearing, including:

  • Hearing aids: Hearing aid devices amplify sound and can be customized to fit a person’s specific hearing needs, whether you frequent noisy environments or spend most of your time in the quiet of your own home.
  • Cochlear implants: These are electronic devices that are surgically implanted in the ear and used to help people with severe hearing loss or deafness.
  • Assistive listening devices: These devices can amplify sound in specific situations, such as while watching TV or using the phone.
  • Lip reading and sign language: For those unable to benefit from hearing aids or other devices, learning lip reading or sign language can help improve communication.

How Can I Tell if Hearing Loss is Permanent or Temporary?

Generally, the only reliable way to determine whether hearing loss is permanent or temporary is to visit a hearing healthcare professional for a hearing test. They can identify the level of permanence, diagnose the cause of the hearing loss, and recommend appropriate treatments.

Where Can I Get A Hearing Test?

Hearing tests are usually performed by hearing professionals, such as an audiologist. At Robillard Hearing Centres, we have 12 locations throughout Ottawa and Eastern Ontario where you can book your hearing test and speak with our professionals. We offer online and in-person examinations.

Alternatively, some doctors can conduct basic hearing tests in-office, but it’s often better to see a specialist for more in-depth results. 

Attending to Your Hearing Health

Taking care of your hearing health is essential to prevent hearing loss or to minimize its impact if it does occur. Here are some steps you can take to protect your hearing:

    • Avoid loud noises. Wear earplugs or other protective devices if you must be in an environment with high decibels, like concerts, construction sites, or sporting events.
    • Get regular hearing tests. As you age, it’s crucial to get a hearing test every three to five years if you’re under 50 and one to two years if you’re over 50. These routine check-ups can help identify hearing loss early, allowing for intervention.
    • Use hearing aids or assistive devices: Even if you currently experience hearing loss, it’s important to follow the above steps to protect the hearing you have left. Hearing aids and other assistive devices can improve your overall communication and quality of life, as previously mentioned, and can help you adapt your lifestyle.

Connect with an Audiologist

If you suspect that you or someone you love is experiencing hearing loss, try to seek help as soon as possible. Our hearing healthcare professionals at Robillard Hearing Centres can help you make sense of your difficulties with hearing. We know that this can be a challenging experience, and with early intervention, it is possible to improve hearing and adjust your lifestyle in a way that maintains your happiness. Contact us to learn more about your hearing health.