We’ve all experienced the frustration of not being able to hear things. It can be frustrating and can leave you with a feeling of being left out. But imagine if that feeling was permanent. For millions of people across the world, this is their everyday life.
Hearing loss affects 1 out of 6 Australians, with 3 out of 4 over the age of 70 requiring some form of hearing assistance. With the help of advanced technology, there are now several treatment options available to assist people with hearing loss which can enable them to live a normal life.
Treatment options vary depending on the level, cause and type of hearing loss you have. In this article, we will discuss the different types of treatment options that exist today.
- Causes of Hearing Loss
- The Importance of Treating Hearing Loss
- Treatment Options for Hearing Loss
- Final Thoughts
Causes of Hearing Loss
There are 3 main categories of hearing loss, known as conductive, sensorineural and mixed.
Conductive hearing loss is usually referred to as temporary and is due to a physical obstruction restricting sound waves travelling sufficiently through the outer or middle ear. Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent as a result of damage occurring in the inner ear and/or auditory nerve. Mixed hearing loss, as the name suggests, is a mixture of both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Your best option for treating any type of hearing loss is to seek treatment as early as possible and have regular hearing assessments to assess your auditory health.
The best way to manage any sort of hearing loss is to seek help as soon as possible and have regular hearing tests to monitor your auditory health.
There are many different causes of hearing loss. Below we have outlined some of the more common causes:
Loud Sound Exposure
Prolonged and, on occasion, sudden exposure to loud noise can permanently damage the structures of your inner ear. Exposure to loud noise at work is the most common cause of noise-induced hearing loss. This is due to a large amount of time spent exposed to the damaging sound source on a regular basis. Importantly, it is preventable and its effects can be reduced or eliminated by ensuring the adequate use of hearing protection, which restricts the amount of sound entering the auditory pathway. Other sources of noise exposure include loud music, firearms use, power tools, lawnmowers and chainsaws.
Presbycusis (Age-Related Hearing Loss)
Hearing loss is commonly associated with the aging process. As we age, the delicate hair cells in the inner ear collapse, causing what we commonly refer to as age-related hearing loss. It is unavoidable in most people, and regular hearing checks are recommended to monitor the progression of hearing loss, particularly as we age.
Glands in our ear canals produce earwax to keep our ears moist and clean from dust, and for most people, it will naturally work its way out of the ear. Unfortunately, for some, this is not the case and an excessive build-up of wax can accumulate in the ear canal, blocking the sufficient transfer of sounds into the middle ear system. If earwax is a common problem for yourself, then speak with your doctor or hearing care professional in regards to common treatment and management options available.
Hereditary hearing loss can be conductive, sensorineural or mixed, and some individuals are born with a genetic predisposition that causes hearing loss. Hereditary hearing loss may take place at birth or not take effect until later in life.
Loud noises, sharp objects being poked in the ear, significant pressure changes and ear infections can all result in a ruptured eardrum which will affect your hearing. The eardrum plays an important part in the transfer of sound and, when damaged, can restrict this process.
Medical conditions can also have a significant effect on an individual’s hearing. Conditions such as diabetes, virus or bacterial infections (such as otitis media), heart conditions, strokes, brain injuries, and cancer treatment may also lead to a deterioration in hearing.
Some common medical conditions that can cause hearing impairment include:
- Otitis externa (infection of the external ear)
- Otitis media (infection in the middle ear)
- Otosclerosis (abnormal bone growth in the ear)
- Tumours (acoustic neuroma)
- Ototoxic medications
- Cytomegalovirus infection
- Head trauma
Learn More: Hearing Loss: Causes, Diagnosis and Treatment
The Importance of Treating Hearing Loss
Hearing is one of our most vital senses as it allows us to interact with others, learn new skills, and connect with our loved ones. When this sense is compromised, it impairs our ability to communicate efficiently, and often leads to social isolation, cognitive decline and depression.
In children, untreated hearing loss can result in significant difficulty with learning, late development of language, and reduced social engagement. Early detection is crucial and the importance of regular hearing health checks is crucial from an early age.
Recent studies have identified a strong link between untreated hearing loss and cognitive conditions such as dementia. When the auditory cortex is understimulated, it atrophies (shrinks). This affects nearby areas of the brain which are linked to cognitive function.
Hearing specialists can help you identify the type and reason for your hearing loss. Through comprehensive hearing tests, a proper rehabilitation plan can be implemented to ensure the best possible outcomes. Contact us today and see how we can help with your specific needs.
Treatment Options for Hearing Loss
Treatment and rehabilitation options for hearing loss depend on the needs, level, and type of your hearing loss. It is important to treat a hearing loss as soon as it is identified to ensure the overall health of the auditory system and, in the bigger picture, the overall health of the brain.
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Here are some of the different treatment options for hearing loss:
Hearing aids are small electronic devices that you can wear in or behind your ear. It amplifies sounds and the patients’ damaged hearing frequencies, making sounds louder and clearer in order for them to hear. When choosing a hearing aid, it is important to know that there are many different types and styles available to suit all needs and budgets. When seeking information on hearing aids, the advice of an independent provider is recommended to ensure you are given all the hearing aid options that are available on the market. Different styles of hearing include behind-the-ear (BTE), receiver-in-canal (RIC), custom hearing aids (ITC, ITE, CIC) and invisible in the canal (IIC).
Types of hearing aids:
This style is one of the most common styles prescribed across the world. The versatility of these devices fits all types of hearing loss, from mild to profound, and they come in many different shapes and sizes.
These devices are very reliable and typically require lower maintenance than others, given that the hearing aid sits behind the ear and the sound is transferred through a tube into the ear canal.
Although one of the larger styles of hearing aids, there are many newer models that come in smaller sizes with slim tubing and can be very discreet.
Custom Hearing Aids (In-The-Ear, In-the-Canal, Complete-in-Canal)
Custom hearing aids, as the name suggests, are custom moulded to fit specifically into the patient’s ear and come in a wide range of sizes and styles.
In-the-Ear (ITE): The larger of the custom styles allows this style to have the most features of the custom style devices. Due to the larger size of the device, it allows for a larger battery size, which increases the power output and battery life for this style of the device. Added features such as Tele-Coil, Program Buttons and Volume Wheels can also be added and the latest models also now come in a rechargeable option.
In-the-Canal (ITC): The ITC hearing aid is a smaller version of the ITE and boasts many of the same abilities. Given the reduction in size, controls such as the volume wheel or programme button are typically not available as the reduced size removes the ability to add these features. For individuals looking for a more discreet option with a similar output to the ITE, then this may be the option for you.
The CIC hearing aid is the smaller version of the custom hearing aid range. This style is very discreet and is a popular version of the custom style of hearing aids.
Receiver in the canal Hearing aids, also commonly referred to as RIC hearing aids, sit behind the ear, which is attached to a receiver that sits in the ear canal. RIC devices are the most popular devices sold today and worth considering for anyone who is in need of hearing assistance.
RICs are perfect for those who prefer a more discreet hearing aid. They’re smaller than other types of devices, and their thin case helps them blend seamlessly behind your ear with a large range of colour options to suit every individual.
If connectivity is a must, then a RIC device is the option for you, with many models providing direct Bluetooth connectivity to both iPhone and Android devices, enabling individuals to stream phone calls, Zoom meetings, music, and movies directly to their hearing aids. They are also readily available in rechargeable models, removing the need for regular battery changes.
If a discreet hearing aid is what you prefer, then the IIC devices are one of the most discreet hearing aid styles available on the market. They are custom fitted to sit deep in the ear canal and are virtually invisible once inserted. The IIC device will suit mild to moderate hearing loss profiles and come in a wide range of models.
There are many advantages to the Invisible-in-Canal hearing aid. Firstly, as the name suggests, they are virtually invisible when situated correctly in the ear canal, which for individuals looking for discretion is a big plus.
Another major benefit of this style of device is the sound quality. Fitted deep into the canal, it allows for a more natural sound by utilising the user’s own ear and canal to funnel sound directly into the hearing aid.
Cochlear implants are surgically implanted electronic devices that provide sound to people with profound hearing loss where the use of a conventional hearing aid is not sufficient. It works by implanting a device directly into the inner ear which is used to artificially transfer sound electronically into the cochlea.
Learn More: Different Types Of Hearing Loss
Bone-Anchored Hearing Aids (BAHA)
also commonly referred to as “bone conduction” hearing aids.” These devices are typically used for people who have a permanent type of conductive hearing loss or for individuals who are unable to wear a conventional type of hearing aid. This device is typically fixed into place behind the ear (on the mastoid bone) and transfers the sound through the mastoid bone into the cochlea, bypassing the outer and middle ear.
If you or someone you know are experiencing signs of hearing loss, it is important to seek treatment from a qualified hearing care professional as soon as possible.
When it comes to treatment and rehabilitation of hearing loss, it is important to start the process as early as possible to ensure the best possible outcomes. The longer hearing loss occurs in an individual, the neural pathways can become damaged and are often unable to be fully repaired through traditional treatments and rehabilitation options.
There is no “one size fits all” treatment option for hearing loss. Thus, a consultation and hearing assessment is necessary to properly diagnose and identify adequate treatment options for your specific type of hearing loss.
Independent Hearing specializes in hearing loss prevention, detection, and rehabilitation. We offer FREE consultations and are fully accredited with the government’s office of hearing service program to provide programme services to pension and DVA cardholders. Contact us today on 08 8004 0077!