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What is Hearing Loss

What is Hearing Loss


Hearing loss is a common problem that affects many people around the world. It comes in different forms and can range from mild to severe. If you experience hearing loss, you might find it challenging to comprehend or engage in conversations. Simple tasks like participating in phone calls, attending virtual meetings, or following dialogue on television may become difficult.

Most often, hearing loss can’t be reversed. However, audiologists’ healthcare providers who specialize in diagnosing and treating hearing loss can help.

  • WHO estimates that approximately 15% of the world’s adult population experiences some degree of hearing loss.
  • WHO estimates that 1 billion people worldwide are at risk of hearing loss, due to unsafe listening practices. This includes exposure to loud sound on personal audio devices and in noisy entertainment venues.

In this article, we’ll explore the basics of hearing loss, including what it is, why it happens, and how it can impact your ability to communicate and socialize.

We’ll also talk about how hearing loss is diagnosed and treated, as well as some helpful tips for living with hearing loss. Whether you’re dealing with hearing loss yourself or you know someone who is, this article will give you the information you need to understand and manage this condition better.


Is Hearing Loss Common?

Hearing loss is more common than many people realize, affecting millions of individuals worldwide. It’s not just an issue that older adults face; it can occur at any age and for various reasons. Including

  • Genetics
  • Exposure to loud noise
  • Certain medical conditions, and
  • Some medications

Globally, more than 1 in 10 people have some degree of hearing loss:

  • An estimated 466 million individuals have hearing loss in one ear (unilateral hearing loss).
  • More than 1.5 billion people worldwide are currently affected by hearing loss in at least one ear. Nearly 2.5 billion people are projected to have some degree of hearing loss by 2050 and at least 700 million will require some form of hearing rehabilitation.
  • Over 1 billion young adults are at risk of permanent, avoidable hearing loss due to unsafe listening practices.
  • Approximately 1 in 3 adults over 65 and nearly half of adults 75 and older experience age-related hearing loss.
  • About 2 in 1,000 babies are born with some type of hearing loss.


Types of hearing loss

Hearing loss happens when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ear or ears. It’s either bilateral (both ears cannot hear or when there is a disorder in both ears), or unilateral (only one ear cannot hear, while the other ear can hear normally).

There are three types of hearing loss:

Conductive Hearing Loss:

Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound waves cannot pass efficiently through the outer or middle ear, typically due to blockages or damage.

Common causes of conductive hearing loss include earwax buildup, ear infections, fluid in the middle ear, or abnormalities in the ear structure.

Individuals with conductive hearing loss may experience muffled or faint sounds, difficulty hearing in noisy environments, and ear pain or pressure. Most cases of conductive hearing loss are treatable with medications or surgery. This is usually temporary as the patient may not suffer from conductive hearing loss after successful treatment.

Sensorineural hearing loss:

Sensorineural hearing loss results from damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve pathways leading to the brain. This type of hearing loss is often permanent and irreversible.

Causes may include aging, exposure to loud noise, genetics, head trauma, or certain medications. Individuals with sensorineural hearing loss may struggle to understand speech, particularly in noisy environments, experience tinnitus (ringing in the ears), or have difficulty discerning high-pitched sounds.

Treatment options typically focus on managing symptoms with hearing aids or cochlear implants. Generally, persons with sensorineural hearing loss will need aural rehabilitation.

Mixed hearing loss:

Mixed hearing loss involves a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, affecting both the outer/middle ear and inner ear or auditory nerve pathways.

This type of hearing loss may result from a variety of factors, such as chronic ear infections leading to inner ear damage or a combination of genetic predisposition and noise exposure.

Individuals with mixed hearing loss may exhibit symptoms of both conductive and sensorineural loss, including difficulty hearing soft or high-pitched sounds, reduced clarity of speech, and occasional ear pain or discomfort.

Treatment approaches often involve a combination of interventions targeting both components of the hearing loss, including medical management, hearing aids, or surgical procedures, depending on the specific circumstances and severity of the condition.


What are the causes of hearing loss?

Hearing loss can stem from various factors, with age and exposure to noise ranking among the most prevalent causes. Age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, is a natural progression as we grow older.

Typically beginning in our 30s and 40s, this gradual decline in hearing acuity tends to worsen over time. By the age of 80, more than half of individuals experience significant hearing impairment.

Additionally, exposure to excessive noise poses a significant risk to hearing health. Living in a world filled with constant noise contributes to this phenomenon. Whether from occupational hazards or recreational activities, prolonged exposure to loud sounds can lead to hearing loss.

  • Common sources of noise include
  • Workplace machinery
  • Rock concerts
  • Nightclubs and
  • Personal audio devices like MP3 players, are often used with headphones.

The prevalence of portable music players has exacerbated the incidence of noise-induced hearing loss in recent years.

Other causes of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can also be caused by

  • Some diseases and infections
  • Certain syndromes
  • Medications and drugs
  • Damages to the ears
  • Injuries to the head
  • Malformation of the ear or blockage of the ear
  • Genetic factors
  • Tumors in the head
  • Alcohol and tobacco
  • Solvents
  • Cholesterol

Hearing Loss Signs and Symptoms

The signs of hearing loss can be subtle and emerge slowly or early signs of hearing loss can be significant and come about suddenly. Either way, below are common indications and signs of hearing-impaired.


  • You frequently ask others to repeat themselves or speak more loudly.
  • You have difficulty following conversations involving more than 2 people
  • You struggle to understand conversations, particularly in noisy environments.
  • You find it challenging to hear high-pitched sounds, such as doorbells or alarms.
  • You experience ringing or buzzing noises in your ears (tinnitus).
  • You need to turn up the volume on electronic devices, such as televisions or radios, to levels others find too loud.
  • You have difficulty following conversations over the phone.
  • You have difficulty hearing in noisy situations, like conferences, restaurants, malls, or crowded meetings.
  • You think that other people sound muffled or like they’re mumbling.
  • You have trouble hearing children and women.
  • You answer or respond inappropriately in conversations.
  • You read lips or more intently watch people’s faces when they speak with you


  • Have a family history of hearing loss.
  • Take medications that can harm the hearing system (ototoxic drugs).
  • Have diabetes, heart, circulation, or thyroid problems.
  • Have been exposed to very loud sounds over a long period or single exposure to explosive noise.

What are Symptoms and Causes of Hearing Loss in babies and children

Hearing loss in babies and children can have various symptoms and causes, making it crucial to identify and address them early on.

Symptoms of hearing loss in infants may include

  • Delayed development of speech and language.
  • Limited or lack of response to sounds.
  • Failure to startle at loud noises, and
  • Difficulty following or responding to directions.


In older children, signs may include speech and language delays, difficulty understanding speech, often asking for repetition, or needing to turn up the volume on electronic devices excessively.

Several factors can contribute to hearing loss in babies and children Congenital factors, such as genetic conditions or infections passed from mother to baby during pregnancy, can lead to hearing impairment from birth. Additionally, complications during birth, such as premature birth or lack of oxygen during delivery, can also affect hearing.

In some cases, hearing loss may develop later in childhood due to recurring ear infections, exposure to loud noises, head injuries, or certain medications.


Hearing Loss Treatment and Management

The treatment and management of hearing loss depend largely on its cause, severity, and individual needs.

Conductive hearing loss

  • Medications, like antibiotics, to treat ear infections.
  • Surgeries, including tympanoplasty, to repair a ruptured eardrum, tympanostomy to insert ear tubes, or surgery to remove tumors.
  • Procedures to remove earwax or other objects in your ear canal.
  • Hearing aids to amplify sound

Sensorineural hearing loss

  • Medications, like corticosteroids, reduce swelling in your cochlea hair cells. (You can damage your cochlea hair cells if you’re exposed to loud noise.)
  • Management like hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Mixed hearing loss

Treatments vary based on the specific issues affecting your outer, middle, and inner ear.

What is Aural Rehabilitation?

Aural rehabilitation encompasses a wide set of practices aimed at optimizing a person’s ability to participate in activities that have been limited as a result of hearing loss.

Aural rehabilitation comprises of

  1. Counseling
  • Information counseling
  • Psychosocial adjustment counseling
  1. Sensory management technology
  • Hearing Aids
  • Cochlear implants
  • Frequency Modulation System
  1. Communication intervention


How to prevent hearing loss

Preventing Hearing impairment is paramount, although certain types may be unavoidable, such as age-related hearing loss. However, noise-induced hearing loss is prevalent and preventable. By steering clear of excessively loud environments, you can mitigate the risk. When exposure to loud noise is unavoidable, safeguard your hearing by:

  • Do not insert any object into your ears.
  • Use ear plugs and ear muffs in noisy places
  • Check if the medicines you take can affect your hearing.
  • In case of any ear problem, consult a doctor immediately.
  • Have your hearing tested regularly.
  • If advised to do so, use a hearing device as indicated.


What are the services rendered at Lily Audiology Center?

At Lily Audiology Centre Warri we are committed to delivering hearing care of high quality in line with recognized best practices to improve your hearing health.

We offer an extensive line of digital hearing aids, state-of-the-art testing, and fitting equipment, and an unsurpassed level of comprehensive hearing care.

  • Pure tone audiometry
  • Tympanometry
  • Supply of hearing aid
  • Hearing aid fittings and repair
  • Ear mould modification
  • Lifestyle products, ie. Custom noise plugs, swim plugs, snore plugs

Hearing loss can sometimes be temporary, but for many individuals, it persists over time. Living with hearing loss can lead to feelings of isolation and frustration, as everyday activities like phone conversations or enjoying entertainment become challenging.

This sense of missing out on life’s sounds can evoke feelings of discomfort, isolation, or even depression. If you suspect you’re experiencing hearing loss, seeking guidance from a healthcare provider or audiologist is crucial. They can assess your condition and recommend appropriate measures to improve your hearing and overall quality of life.

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