Hearing loss: the ultimate guide

This is an easy step-by-step guide for what to do if you or a loved one might have a hearing loss.

Here are the six steps that we’ll cover:

  1. Why your hearing is important
  2. What symptoms to look after
  3. What’s your type of hearing loss
  4. Find the cause
  5. How to improve your hearing
  6. What you should do

Let’s get started.

“48 million Americans live with hearing loss”

Steps

1.

Understand the importance of treating hearing loss

2.

Look after hearing loss symptoms

3.

Identify what type of hearing loss you have

4.

Find the cause of your hearing loss

5.

How to treat your hearing loss

6.

What you should do next

Step 1:

Understand the importance of treating hearing loss

Hearing loss is one of the fastest-growing health issues in the United States. 48 million Americans suffer from it – a number likely to double by 2060.

But before you know what to do, it’s a good idea to understand why you should try and improve your hearing – which is exactly what we’ll do in step 1.

How common is hearing loss?

The two most common physical conditions in the United States today are heart disease and arthritis. Right behind these two, on the number three spot, is hearing loss.

The 48 million Americans that deal with some hearing problems account for about 14% of the US population – quite a staggering number. It is easy to push the uptrend in cases aside from the general population increase and overall aging population.

However, it is the young Americans who are driving this increase. The key is the lack of respect for consistent exposure to loud noises, which affects the inner ear over time.

Hearing aid purchases are on the rise

In the US, approximately 15 million hearing aids are sold every year, and the hearing aid market grows by 4-6% yearly.

About 30 million Americans between 20-69 years old have some type of hearing issue — and 30% of those own hearing aids. Furthermore, this number is trending up, so people are more prone to getting control over their hearing issues.

The benefits of improving your hearing

There are quite a few positives when it comes to getting a better hearing.

First of all, your quality of life increases significantly. Think of all the office discussions you have not been able to follow. Think of all the social gatherings you have felt excluded from.

Not a bad start in terms of seeing the upside. Being proactive about hearing loss plays a critical part in all aspects of your life, as your hearing is so central.

See all the benefits here.

Financial implications

Furthermore, it has been proved that it is financially beneficial to get your hearing in order as soon as possible.

Looking at Johns Hopkins University research, one could argue that waiting around is much more expensive than actually getting a hearing aid. While the cost of hearing aids vary, you can get them from about $1,000 and up.

Reversely, not poor hearing can result in overall health care cost increases of over $22,000. 46% higher than Americans not experiencing hearing problems. Imagine what you could with $22,000.

Step 2:

Look after hearing loss symptoms

Okay, so now you know why it’s important to improve your hearing.

But what are the symptoms you should look out for?

That’s the second step of the journey and what we’ll go through now.

Symptoms to be aware of

The symptoms of a “traditional” hearing loss are not something that typically happens overnight.

Instead, it slowly creeps in on you due to wear and tear on the inner ear over a longer period of time.

Maybe your favorite speaker does not hit the right tunes as they used to. Perhaps the volume on the TV has gradually increased from 14 to 20.

At some point, however, it gets evident that something is wrong. The trick is to get checked out the sooner, the better, which will help you in the future.

The checklist

You can read our deep dive of symptoms. Still, some of the critical watch-outs include;

  • other people sound like they are mumbling 
  • difficulty keeping up with conversations
  • beginning to speak more loudly
  • difficulty determining the direction of sounds.
  • asking people to repeat themselves
  • excluding yourself from social gatherings
  • ringing to your ears
  • bad hearing in the family (as hearing is hereditary) 

 

If you find yourself crossing off a few on this list, you should see a hearing specialist and get checked out.

Sudden hearing loss symptoms

However, not all hearing issues comes over time.

There are examples of sudden hearing loss. These examples are most commonly conductive, meaning that some object blocks your hearing canals, preventing sounds from entering.

Sudden sensorineural hearing loss (where there has been some damage to the inner ear) often appears after trauma to the head, causing damage to the inner ear’s nerveways. Usually, it comes with its own set of symptoms, such as balance problems, dizziness, and tinnitus.

Step 3:

Identify what type of hearing loss you have

Did you recognize a symptom or two?

If so, it’s time to look at step 3, where we’ll try and identify what type of hearing loss you have.

Identifying the type of hearing loss you have is critical to understand how the hearing problems emerged and how it can be treated.

Typically, when speaking of hearing loss, people look at three different types—the conductive, sensorineural, and mixed.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is the most common cause of hearing loss.

It results from damage to the inner ear, the tiny hair cells, or the hearing nerves.

There is often a direct correlation between aging and SNHL, as it occurs when the structures in the ear start to deteriorate. However, short, explosive noises or consistent exposure can also cause a SNHL.

This type of hearing loss usually is not medically or surgically treatable, why you need to be aware of the noise exposure you put yourself through.

The only solution to SNHL is getting a hearing aid. Luckily, technology has ensured that these are getting smaller while still getting more advanced, leading to better and more discrete hearing aids.

Conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss comes from damage or blockages to the outer or middle ear. These blocks come in all shapes and sizes and can be as harmful as excess ear wax.

Happens to the best of us, right? And the best part is, it does not require invasive surgery to get it out. A bit of suction – that is it.

However, as said, it can also be more severe. Any abnormalities around the bones in the middle ear or the ear canals will significantly impact your hearing.

Therefore, it’s vital always to see an audiologist if you have any issues with your hearing.

Mixed hearing loss

Well, you guessed it. Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. Talk about a one-two punch.

In such a case, you will experience some sort of conductive hearing loss while already – knowing or unknowingly – suffering from SNHL. Such cases further highlight the necessity of seeing an audiologist if you are experiencing reduced hearing.

Step 4:

Find the cause of your hearing loss

Now that you have got the three types of hearing loss locked down, you can start to dig into the different hearing loss causes.

It’s crucial to figure out the cause so you can prevent further damage to your hearing. 

Therefore, we’ve listed 15 different hearing loss causes. Maybe you can recognize one or two of them?

The most common causes

All of the 15 causes mentioned above can be what has resulted in a reduction in your hearing.

However, when looking at the leading causes of a traditional long-term hearing loss, the three causes below are the usual suspects.

Age-related hearing loss

The number one factor reducing hearing is age. It is estimated that about one in two American adults over 65 experience hearing loss.

As you get older, the ear simply starts to deteriorate. This is not something that happens from day to day, but more gradually as time passes by.

The impact of your genetic setup

The genetic heritage will also pinpoint a big part of those affected by age-related hearing loss.

Around 50% of age-related hearing loss is triggered by the genetic setup and what we are born with, as the hair cells in the inner ear are significantly affected by our genetic code.

Noise-related hearing loss

This is one of the few causes that you can have a significant influence on yourself. Only by being aware of the noises and the volume you expose yourself to can significantly increase your odds of staying clear of reduced hearing.

Keeping away from the shooting range or using hearing protection when mowing the lawn can make a real difference in the long run. However, the most obvious one is to keep the volume down on your favorite music when you put on the headphones and go for a run.

It is no joke that this is the most often used reference to hearing problems and tinnitus.

Step 5:

How to treat your hearing loss

By now, you hopefully know the importance of improving your hearing.

But how should you do it?

First and foremost, treating hearing loss comes down to understanding what type you are dealing with, as we covered in step 3.

Treating conductive hearing loss

When treating conductive hearing difficulties, surgery will most often be the preferred route to take. In such cases, there is typically a blockage in the ear that needs removal.

If the jam is minor such as with wax or fluids, it will be a small procedure. However, in case of abnormalities to the bones, tumors, or other more severe reasons, the surgery can be more invasive. 

Treating sensorineural hearing loss

Here, there is no cure. However, there are still many ways to increase the comfort of those dealing with it.

The most obvious is hearing aids, which come in all sorts of sizes and with new technological advancements.

Hearing aids can drastically increase the quality of life for those with reduced hearing.

The same goes for cochlear implants surgically placed on the outside and inside the ear and filter music and other background noises.

Step 6:

What you should do next

Getting your hearing tested is probably not a consistent mark in your calendar.

However, it should be, especially as you get older.

The quicker you get diagnosed, the faster and better you can get treated.

Online tests

We get it. It is not very convenient to run to the audiologist every few months.

And why should you be concerned? Your hearing is excellent, right? Maybe, but you never know when things will turn.

A small first step is taking an online test. They come in all shapes and sizes, and perhaps they can be an excellent early indicator.

However, you should note that these are in no way a final diagnostic. The same thing goes as with everything else on the internet – do not trust everything you read.

The importance of speaking to an audiologist

Therefore, you should always follow up with a hearing specialist. They are the experts – not you sitting at home listening to beeps on your computer.

There should be nothing uncomfortable about getting a hearing exam here. Getting an audiologist to test you is usually not expensive at all.

There can be some costs related to it versus doing it online, but the results are also much more trustworthy. If you have any indication of reduced hearing, always get a professional opinion on the matter.

Finding an audiologist

Finding an audiologist can be a bit complicated. But here are three options: 

1) You can ask for a referral through your regular doctor, who will then point you in the right direction of your local audiologist.

2) You can also go online through the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association or other websites.

3) Or we can easily help you find a quality hearing specialist near your neighborhood – 100% free (see how we do it here).

Some last-minute considerations

We hope that you find this article useful. We have written many articles on the most pressing matters within hearing loss and its effects on those suffering from it.

Here, we are covering the basics for you to get a better understanding of the subject. It can feel like a mountain of information is in front of you and seem like a daunting task to get a grasp of.

However, if there is one central message to take from all of this, it is this: if you are ever in doubt, get checked out.

See, it even rhymed. A hearing specialist is the right person to go to if you experience symptoms and remember – the sooner, the better.