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Why We Develop Hearing Problems and How to Prevent Them


What exactly defines hearing loss? First, we need to understand that there are three different types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed.


● Conductive hearing loss is related to a malfunction in the ear’s ability to transmit sound “from the environment to the inner ear through the tympanic membrane and ossicles of the middle ear” [1].

● Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common and is a result of “cochlear or retrocochlear changes” [1].

● Mixed hearing loss is exactly how it sounds, a mix of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. This means that the damage in the ear is in the outer and inner ear.


Hearing loss can happen to anyone, but it is more common in adults, as it “becomes more common with age, starting with subtle changes in hearing, such as difficulty understanding others in noisy environments and feeling like others are mumbling” [1]. There are screening methods that can be done in order to determine whether someone's hearing is deteriorating.

For both children and adults, there are certain risk factors to look out for. These include but are not limited to [1]:


Children

○ History of hearing loss in childhood

○ Ear anomalies

○ Cranial or facial anomalies

○ Any syndromes that are associated with hearing loss

○ Head trauma

○ Chemotherapy


Adults

○ Age

○ Consistent noise exposure

○ History of hearing loss in the family

○ Smoking

○ Diabetes


So, now that we know what hearing loss is defined as and what some of the risk factors are, how do you go about preventing hearing loss? The most recommended way to prevent hearing loss is to limit your exposure to noise. Noise is happening all around us, whether it's at work, at home, or anywhere else. If you find yourself in loud places often, it might be beneficial to invest in hearing protection. Other ways you can prevent hearing loss are to stop smoking and take care of your cardiovascular health [2]. Adults, as mentioned before, can have “routine auditory screening” done in order to stay on top of their hearing levels [2].


If you are at a certain point of hearing loss, you may be recommended hearing aids, cochlear implants, or other devices to help you hear better. However, gene therapy is a method that can aid “restoration or partial restoration of hearing and balance functions” for those who have sensorineural hearing loss [2].


It is never too late to seek help. If you are able, make sure to get an auditory screening, even if you are not experiencing any loss of hearing.


References:

1. Nieman, C. L., & Oh, E. S. (2020). Hearing loss. Annals of internal medicine, 173(11), ITC81-ITC96.


2. Cunningham, L. L., & Tucci, D. L. (2017). Hearing Loss in Adults. The New England journal of medicine, 377(25), 2465. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMra1616601


 

Contributors:

Author: Kayjah Taylor

Editor: Lauryn Agron

Health scientist: Catherine Sarwat



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