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Hearing Loss Information

Hearing Loss Information Prevention and FAQs

It is estimated that more than 31 million Americans experience some degree of hearing loss.  It can develop very gradually so you may not be aware that there is a problem until family or friends point it out to you when they have to repeat what they say to you or if you turn the TV up louder than normal.

Age Related Hearing Loss

Hearing loss related to age is called presbycusis and it is a combination of changes to

  • ƒƒ The structures of the inner ear
  • ƒƒ Blood flow to the inner ear
  • ƒƒ The hearing nerve
  • ƒƒ How the brain processes speech and sounds


Presbycusis typically is a high-pitched gradual hearing loss that can be noticed by the subtle changes in hearing over time. Common symptoms of presbycusis include having difficulty hearing female voices, children’s voices, and background noises, as well as the loss of speech clarity.

Hearing loss due to aging can be worsened by other factors such as diabetes, poor circulation, noise exposure, and certain medications.

  • 30–35 percent of adults between the ages of 65 and 75 years suffer from hearing loss.
  • ƒƒ40–50 percent of adults 75 and older suffer from hearing loss.

People with untreated hearing loss (those with hearing loss who do not wear hearing aids) experience a decreased quality of life. Untreated hearing loss can lead to depression, anxiety, paranoia, and poor social relationships.  Recent studies have also shown a relationship between untreated hearing loss and higher rates of dementia.


Hearing aids are the most common treatment for age-related hearing loss. Modern hearing aids are digital microcomputers that automatically adjust to sound thousands of times per second, making speech clear and natural sounding while controlling the interference of background noise.

Hearing Aid Facts

  • Hearing aids can improve communication with family, friends, and co-workers and give you a better quality of life.
  • Hearing aid technology is constantly evolving to improve speech clarity and and reduction of the interfernce of background noise.ƒƒ
  • There are many sizes and styles of hearing aids in a variety of technology levels and prices.  The choice of which hearing aid is right for you depends on your hearing loss pattern, the size and shape of your ears, your finger dexterity, your lifestyle and your preferences.  


Common Signs of Hearing Loss

  • ƒƒAsking people to repeat what they say.
  • ƒƒFeeling like others are always mumbling or not speaking clearly.
  • Difficulty hearing and understanding speech in noisy environments.
  • ƒƒMissing words or phrases on the telephone.
  • ƒƒTurning the volume up on the television or radio louder than normal.


Prevention

Exposure to intense sudden loud noise like a firecracker or gunfire or sustained exposure to loud noise of any kind without the use of hearing protection (ear plugs or ear muffs) can permanent hearing loss.  This is entirely preventable!   Simply use hearing protection consistently when you're around loud noise.  Wear ear plugs or ear muffs when moving the lawn or anytime you use noisy equipment.  Wear earplugs if you attend an air show or a rock concert.  If you have a job where you must work in a high noise area, heairng protection should be provided for you by your employer.  Use it consistently and you can keep your good hearing!

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Types of Hearing Loss

The most common types of hearing loss are conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss.

  • Conductive Hearing Loss occurs when incoming sound waves are blocked from reaching the inner ear because of disease or malfunction in the outer or middle ear (the space just beyond the eardrum).  Conductive hearing loss can lead to permanent hearing impairment if left untreated.  People with conductive hearing loss may feel as if their ears are plugged and they may speak rather softly because they can hear their own voices very loudly. Conductive hearing loss usually be successfully treated by medical ear specialists known as otolaryngologists, otologists or ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctors.  If the audiology evaluation at Bowie Hearing Center indicates that you have a conductive hearing loss, you will be referred to a medical ear specialist for treatment.

 

  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss is the most common type of hearing loss. Sometimes called nerve hearing loss, it is the result of damage or deterioration of the structures of the inner ear or auditory nerve and it is often associated with aging.   Hearing aids are the most effective treatment for this type of hearing loss.

 

  • Mixed Hearing Loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Individuals with mixed hearing loss have sustained damage to both the inner ear and to the middle ear or outer ear.  Medical or surgical treatment may be possible for the conductive component of the hearing loss and use of hearing aids may help the sensorineural hearing loss component.

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Causes of Hearing Loss

  • Genetic Hearing Loss: Hearing loss may be hereditary, and some scientists believe that genetic factors are the cause of more than half of known hearing loss cases.

 

  • Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: Exposure to loud, sudden, or sustained noises over long periods of time can also cause hearing loss.  Examples of hazardous noise levels would be loud concerts, gun shooting and IPOD use at high volumes.  It is  one of the most common causes of hearing loss and it is also the most preventable by the consistent use of hearing protective devices (earplugs, ear muffs).

 

  • Presbycusis: Hearing loss that occurs as a result of aging is called presbycusis.  It arises from changes that occur in the inner ear as part of the natural aging process, and it occurs so gradually that many people may not realize that their hearing is diminishing.  Presbycusis is quite common; it is estimated that up to a third of those over age 60 and half of those over age 80 have significant hearing loss from presbycusis.

  • Otitis Media: The most common cause of hearing loss in children is from otitis media, or a middle-ear infection. In an ear infection, a virus or a respiratory infection causes the middle ear to become inflamed, preventing the eardrum from vibrating properly.  Ear infections can be treated with antibiotics or surgery.

 

  • Otosclerosis: Abnormal bone growth or calcium buildup in the middle ear can prevent the ear from working properly, thus causing hearing loss. Surgery can usually restore the hearing in cases of otosclerosis..

 

  • Earwax Impaction. Hearing loss can happen as a result of a buildup of earwax in the ear.  DO NOT USE Q-TIPS TO CLEAN YOUR EARS!  Q-tips usually make the condition worse by compacting earwax and pushing it deeper into the ear canal where it can no longer naturally move its way out.  Earwax softening eardrops (Debrox, Murine and other brands) are usually effective at softening earwax so it can come out of the ear on its own or be easily syringed out with water.  DO NOT USE EARDROPS IF YOU KNOW OR SUSPECT YOU MAY HAVE A PERFORATED EARDRUM.  Seeing an ear,nose and throat (ENT) doctor or otolaryngologist can be helpful for fast removal of problem earwax. 

 

  • Ototoxic Medications and Other Medical Treatments: Certain medications, IV antibiotics and chemotherapy or radiation treatments can be toxic to the ear and may cause some degree of hearing loss.  Abuse of commonly prescribed painkillers can also cause hearing loss.  It is important to ask your doctor about any possible side effects before starting new medications.

 

  • Diseases and Genetic Disorders: Some diseases and genetic disorders, such as Meniere's disease, can cause some degree of permanent hearing loss. Meniere's disease can cause sufferers to experience hearing loss and other related problems, including tinnitus and vertigo. Other diseases that affect hearing include meningitis and German measles.

 

  • Ear or Head Injuries: The ears are very delicate, and injuries such as perforated eardrums, fractured bones, and tumors can cause hearing loss.  Perforated ear drums can often heal on their own, but other injuries may require surgery for treatment.  The resulting hearing loss may be permanent, depending on the severity and location of the injury.

For more information on the causes of hearing loss, contact Bowie Hearing Center, which serves Bowie, Annapolis and surrounding areas.

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Hearing Loss Prevention

Many people are not aware that the most common cause of permanent hearing loss can be prevented. Although exposure to loud noises over a lifetime can have gradual and devastating effects on your hearing, this type of permanent hearing loss can be avoided. There are many things that individuals can do to prevent hearing loss from occurring, such as:

  • Beware of and avoid potential sources of damaging noises, such as lawn mowers, motorcycles, chainsaws, gunshots, and more.
  • Use earplugs, earmuffs, and other hearing protectors when around harmful noise. Cotton balls and tissue stuffed in the ears DO NOT offer effective hearing protection.
  • Control the volume when listening to stereos, car radios, and personal listening devices.
  • Talk with your doctor to determine whether any new medications you are taking may cause hearing loss. If you experience hearing loss while taking a certain medication, talk with your doctor.
  • In order to prevent ear damage, never stick a cotton swab or any other object into your ear.
  • Blow your nose gently and with both nostrils.
  • Swallow and yawn frequently when at high elevations.
  • Practice safety during recreational activities to prevent ear or head damage by taking precautions such as wearing a helmet when riding a bike or learning proper underwater descent diving techniques.
  • Have your hearing tested regularly by an experienced audiologist like Dr. Newcomb.

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What is an audiologist?

Audiologists are medical professionals who specialize in assessing, diagnosing, and treating people who experience hearing loss. They are committed to helping children and adults hear better.  Audiologists hold masters or doctoral degrees from accredited universities and have undergone special training in the prevention, identification, evaluation, and non-medical treatment of hearing loss and related disorders.  They fit and dispense hearing aids and assistive listening devices and provide hearing rehabilitation. Audiologists also help identify medical problems that lead to hearing loss and refer patients to appropriate medical specialists when indicated.

Dr. Newcomb and Dr. Adams are extensively trained audiologists who have been providing non-medical hearing loss assessment and treatment for more than 24 years.  If you are experiencing hearing loss and live in the Bowie, Annapolis, or surrounding areas, contact our practice for a thorough and accurate hearing evaluation that will determine the exact nature of your hearing loss, enabling you to obtain proper treatment.

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Test Your Hearing

Hearing loss sets in slowly over time, often due to the natural aging process or loud noises. If you think you may be experiencing some degree of hearing loss, please take the time to answer the following questions.

  • Do other people seem to mumble or speak too softly?
  • Do you miss the key words in sentences and find yourself asking people to repeat themselves?
  • When you are in a group or a crowded restaurant, do you have difficulty understanding the conversation?
  • Do family and friends complain that you turn the television up too loud?
  • Have family members complained to you about your hearing?
  • Is talking on the telephone difficult?
  • Do you rely on your spouse to help you hear when you are outside your home?
  • Do you find it difficult to tell from which direction a sound is coming?
  • Do you find it difficult to hear the telephone or doorbell ring?
  • Do you have difficulty understanding speeches at meetings or religious services?

If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, you should contact Bowie Hearing Center in Maryland for a complete hearing evaluation with our audiologists -  Dr. Gwyneth Newcomb or Dr. Mary Adams.  During the evaluation, they will determine whether you are experiencing hearing loss and will explain the treatments available.  We have a variety of non-medical treatment products, such as hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and more, at reasonable prices. We also offer affordable financing options so that you can get the treatment that you need.

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Hearing Loss and Hearing Aids: Frequently Asked Questions

We at the Bowie Hearing Center have put together a list of frequently asked questions regarding hearing loss and hearing aid devices. Please take the time to read through the following questions and answers.

What is the ringing in my ears?

The ringing sensation that you hear in your ears is called tinnitus. Some people hear it as buzzing, chirping, or like air coming out of tires.  it can occur as the result of noise damage to the auditory system or hearing loss due to aging . Sometimes medications and high blood pressure can cause tinnitus. Tinnitus can be periodic or constant and can affect one or both ears.  The use of hearing aids often reduces or eliminates the perception of tinnitus.  There are now hearing aids that offer masking noises that can also be effective in reducing or eliminating tinnitus.

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Why do I only have difficulty hearing in crowds?

If you find it difficult to hear in crowded areas, you may be experiencing high-frequency hearing loss. People experiencing this type of hearing loss can hear distracting noise louder than speech because they cannot detect the high-frequency sounds that help make speech understandable. People with this type of hearing loss find it much easier to hear in a one-on-one conversation than in a group of people. If you think that you are experiencing this type of hearing loss, contact Bowie Hearing Center, which also serves Annapolis and Silver Spring, Maryland, to schedule an appointment for a comprehensive hearing evaluation.

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I can hear what people are saying, but I have problems understanding them. Why is that?

People who can hear speech but cannot make sense of it may be experiencing high-frequency hearing loss. Most consonant sounds in speech are high in pitch and help people distinguish between certain words that sound the same. However, people with high-frequency hearing loss find it difficult to distinguish between those words, which can make understanding them difficult. Hearing aids can help solve this problem by adjusting and focusing on certain sounds nearby for better clarity and ease of understanding. If you think you are experiencing high-frequency hearing loss, contact the Bowie Hearing Center to schedule a hearing aid appointment.

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What is the youngest age at which a child should get tested for hearing problems?

Children of any age, including newborns, can be tested for hearing loss or other related problems. Young children, including newborns, infants, and toddlers, can be tested for hearing loss using otoacoustic emission testing, a noninvasive way to record the ear's response to sound. When children are old enough to localize sound, they can undergo behavioral hearing loss testing using a sound booth and visual reinforcement. Usually, children older than three years old can be tested for hearing loss in the same manner as adults.

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Will a hearing aid restore my hearing to normal?

Hearing aids cannot restore your hearing to normal. Hearing aids are exactly that—aids that help bring more sounds up to your hearing level. Studies show that most hearing loss can be successfully treated with hearing aids.

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Will a hearing aid make me lose more hearing?

Hearing aids will not make your level of hearing worse; rather, they increase sound levels to a range in which you can more easily detect them. Instead of contributing to hearing loss, studies show that hearing aids help to stimulate the ears and keep them active, a state that helps enhance the ability to understand speech and other noises.

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Does a hearing aid help with background noise?

Many hearing aids combine directional microphones with noise-reduction capabilities to reduce background noise. Digital hearing aids are more effective at reducing noise-like sound; however, no hearing loss treatment device is effective at completely eliminating background noise. In order to combat the effects of background noise, hearing aids try to highlight and amplify the sound signals characteristic of speech.

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How often do hearing aids need to be repaired or replaced?

Hearing aids require daily maintenance to eliminate wax and moisture that can cause problems. Customers should return to their audiologists several times a year to have their hearing aids cleaned. Occasionally, hearing aids will need repair due to normal wear and tear over time. Repairs usually come with a new warranty. Dr. Newcomb can clean and repair hearing loss devices of any brand in her practice, which also serves Annapolis and Silver Spring, Maryland. Patients generally replace their hearing aids after four to six years. However, with proper maintenance, your hearing aid may last longer.

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Are hearing aids covered by insurance?

Some insurance plans will cover all or part of the cost of audiology evaluations and hearing aids.  Feel free to call us at (301)464-6701 and we'd be happy to check what benefits your insurance plan has.

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Contact Bowie Hearing Center Today

Dr. Newcomb is more than willing to address any questions or concerns regarding hearing loss and the products and services that she offers. If you would like more information on hearing loss and live in the Bowie or Silver Spring areas, contact our hearing loss practice today.

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