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Common Causes of Hearing Loss

Common Causes of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a very common condition (third most common behind arthritis and heart disease), with 16% of U.S. adults reporting hearing trouble. Hearing loss also affects children, with 3 in 1,000 children born with some hearing loss in one or both ears, and 15% of kids and teens ages 6-19 dealing with mild to permanent damage to their hearing. Permanent hearing damage can affect quality of life, speech development, mental performance and can lead to depression and isolation. But there is help available, and research suggests treatment may even have positive effects on cognitive functions like memory in older adults struggling with hearing loss. During your consult at Lake Grove ENT, we will spend some time assessing your hearing level, exploring how your hearing works, what causes hearing loss, and how it can be treated. 

Residents of the Lake Oswego, Oregon area coping with hearing loss can get help with the team of doctors and audiologists at Lake Grove ENT. As a premier group of Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) specialists and Doctors of Audiology, we pride ourselves with helping patients with an array of ENT-related conditions using state of the art technology for diagnosis and treatment.

How hearing works

Your ears consist of three main parts: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. To hear something, sound waves need to pass through the ear canal and create vibrations felt by your eardrum (also called the tympanic membrane, located in your middle ear). Once the vibrations hit the middle ear, the vibrations are amplified by the small bones of the middle ear and transmitted to the inner ear.  The vibrations then pass through fluid within a structure called the cochlea. Within the cochlea are thousands of tiny hairs that convert sound vibrations into electrical signals. The signals are then transmitted to your brain where it is turned into sound you can comprehend.

Causes of hearing loss

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) breaks down hearing problems into three categories: 

Conductive hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss is a result of pathology in the ear canal, ear drum or middle ear.   This can be caused by ear infections, foreign bodies, allergies, swimmer’s ear, wax buildup, abnormalities with the ear drum, scarring or from benign or malignant tumors in the eart.

Sensorineural hearing loss (SNL)

This condition is the result of damage to the inner ear or the nerve pathways to your brain, and is often permanent. As a result, normal, distinct, or loud sounds become muffled and hard to make out. This can be caused by defects and pathology at the time of birth, head trauma, working around loud noises, aging,  inner ear disorders, and tumors. Viral or bacterial infections can also lead to SNL.

Mixed hearing loss

This is a combination of both conditions.

Treatment

Treatment for hearing loss will depend on the type of loss you’re experiencing as well as the severity of the condition. We will typically start your visit with a full audiogram to assess your hearing levels.  Examination of the ear and ear canal will also assist in diagnosis.  Treatment of wax impaction and infection will often be performed on the same day.  Sensorineural hearing loss may often be treated with hearing amplification.  Structural problems, like abnormalities in the eardrum or the related bones can be treated using surgery.  Imaging of the middle and inner ear may be recommended to further assess the nature of the problem. 

Hearing loss can be distressing, but we are here to help you understand what’s causing your conditions and offer solutions to restore hearing as best as possible. If you’re experiencing hearing problems, make an appointment with Lake Grove ENT.

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