Our ears are subject to many hearing problems. Some may affect our hearing, while others may cause issues with infections and balance. That is why having our ears checked is very important because we can detect the issue and try to treat it.
Let’s look at some of the most common problems to give you further insight.
Common Hearing Problems
It is characterized by buzzing or ringing in the ears that is perceived in one ear or both. These sounds may be temporary or heard continuously. It is mostly noticeable in silence.
Tinnitus can be categorized as subjective and objective tinnitus. If it is subjective, it is only heard by the patient. The rarer type, objective tinnitus, is usually perceived by the doctor.
Tinnitus is considered a symptom of many causes. It can start for no evident reason.
Now, there is currently no definite treatment for tinnitus. However, there are some treatments and therapies that relieve the discomfort and the symptoms of tinnitus. Unfortunately, tinnitus can have a huge impact and be a source of stress, causing anxiety, sleeping problems, and anger.
To start with, you should contact your ear, nose, and throat doctor so you can find a solution to your condition.
Presbycusis/ Age-related Hearing Loss
It is a progressive hearing loss or age-related hearing disease. It usually starts after the age of 50 and is usually associated with tinnitus. It is the most common condition that affects adults as they age. Some symptoms might show having trouble in:
Hearing, following, and understanding doctor’s advice
Responding to warnings
Hearing phones, alarms, and doorbells
What is the reason for losing our hearing as we get older?
The changes due to age in the middle ear and along the nerve pathways from the ear affect the hearing process.
Long-term exposure to noise and some medical conditions can also play a negative role.
High blood pressure and diabetes are connected to hearing loss.
Otosclerosis, known as abnormalities of the middle ear, worsens hearing with age.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
The sounds we hear every day from television, radio, household appliances, and traffic are all safe sounds that do not damage your hearing. When they start being so loud, they become harmful and damage the sensitive structures in the inner ear, leading to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL).
NIHL can be caused by a one-time exposure to loud sounds such as an explosion, or by continuous exposure to loud sounds over an extended period such as noise being generated in a woodworking shop.
When you are exposed to loud noise over long periods, you gradually start to lose your hearing. You might ignore the signs of hearing loss at first until they become more pronounced.
The damage from noise-induced hearing loss can lead to severe hearing loss where using hearing aids becomes a must to magnify the sounds around. Tinnitus also might develop in one or both ears either constantly or occasionally.
The good thing about this type of hearing loss is that it is completely preventable. If you understand the risks of hearing loud noises and how to practice good hearing health, then you can protect your hearing.
This disease touches the inner ear. It is often accompanied by tinnitus, dizziness, or hearing loss. The causes are still unknown because they usually occur unpredictably. There are some factors though that are considered a multifactorial cause. Some of them are:
Frequently, it is treated with medication. If complications become worse, an operation may be taken into consideration.
Chronic Ear Disorders
Otitis is a common infectious disease, affecting all individuals, particularly infants and young children. Several types of ear infections affect different parts of the ear. How can we recognize the symptoms and treat them?
Acute otitis is an infection that affects the middle ear. It is usually caused by a bacterium or a viral origin. Children are susceptible to this because of how their immunity works.
Usually, this infection leaves a hole in the eardrum that never heals. To treat it, doctors normally:
Try to clean the ear canal and middle ear
Give antibiotic ear drops or antibiotics to take by mouth, if needed
Surgery in case of an eardrum perforation or a cholesteatoma (skin-like growth in the middle ear)
It is a type of reduced tolerance to sound. People who suffer from it find that ordinary noises seem too loud, and loud noises seem painful and uncomfortable. The most common cause of it is damage to the inner ear from aging or exposure to loud noise. Other common causes could be:
Chronic exposure to noise due to working in a noisy environment
Surgery to the ear
Paralysis of the facial nerve
If your hyperacusis is severe, you may find difficulty leaving your home and your tolerance for sound starts to affect your career and social life. Shopping centers, movie theaters, and restaurants may be too loud. Small activities like watching the television, using a vacuum cleaner, or driving a car seem problematic.
The good news though is that it can be managed in several ways, including:
Wearing hearing protection in noisy places
Asking others to avoid raising their voices
Tinnitus retraining therapy (TRT)
Medication to help solve sleeping problems (this option may be needed in the short term)
Talking to a professional about the symptoms faced
Sometimes, it is associated with tinnitus and distortion of sounds.
There are many medications that when taken, might damage the inner ear.
An example is medications for cancer treatment. When using several of them, the risk of hearing loss and tinnitus increases. That is the case when you take large doses for a long period.
Other examples include:
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Aspirin if taken in large amounts
Few heart and blood pressure medications
Congenital hearing loss
We are talking here about hearing loss in infants and young children. The word “congenital” means present at birth. This means hearing loss that affects babies for different reasons. It is one of the most widespread chronic conditions in children.
There are three types of congenital hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed.
Congenital hearing loss can be hereditary or genetic. It could be the result of low birth weight, premature birth, or birth injuries. It could be caused by infections during pregnancy, rubella, or cytomegalovirus. Some of these infections include:
Use of alcohol and opioids
It is more common in babies who are still in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). Newborns should be tested for hearing loss shortly after birth to receive the right treatment and therapy promptly. Intervention within the first six months usually prevents social and developmental problems.
Many of the congenital hearing loss cases are linked to environmental factors. That is why they can be prevented through:
Awareness of the effects of drugs and alcohol on the baby during pregnancy
The treatment for congenital hearing loss is multifaceted. It involves a team of professionals to develop the best treatment plan. This team consists of audiologists, pediatricians, speech-language pathologists (experts in language, speech, and social communication), otolaryngologists (medical doctors who specialize in ear, nose, and throat), and genetic counselors (professionals who assess risk for inherited conditions).
Devices that help to manage hearing problems
These small electronic devices amplify sounds and make them louder. You can wear them behind your ear or in it. They make tinnitus and many other hearing problems less noticeable when increasing the background noise level using the device.
These devices are made to cover up the sounds of tinnitus, making it less disturbing.
Some sound generators include a hearing aid.
Devices for the office/home
These devices can be used by putting them nearby instead of wearing them. They help to cover up the sounds of tinnitus. An example of them is “white noise” machines and apps that play music or nature sounds.
This is a device that you can wear in a room where a person is talking. The one speaking can wear a microphone and you wear a small device that makes their voice much easier to be heard.
This is an electronic device that is implanted in the middle ear. It does the job of the natural inner ear to help people with serious hearing loss to hear again.
The earlier hearing problems are detected, the quicker a treatment plan can be developed and implemented. If you are concerned about your ability to hear, you can talk to your healthcare provider. Understanding that there are different ways to help you with your hearing problem can give you a sense of control. Don’t ignore your symptoms! Trust your body and try to help yourself out!