In the US, hearing loss is a common health problem, with about 48-million Americans experiencing some form. Hearing loss occurs gradually when the outer or middle ear, inner ear or both are damaged, leading to hearing loss in one or both ears. Read on to find more on what you need to know about hearing loss.

Causes of hearing loss

The outer ear, middle ear and inner ear make up the main parts of the ear. These parts are responsible for transporting sounds into your brain, causing you to hear. The hearing process begins when sound waves pass through the outer ear and vibrate on the eardrum.

With the help of three tiny bones in the middle ear, the eardrum amplifies these vibrations as they go through the inner ear. The sound waves then travel through the cochlea, which has nerve cells with thousands of tiny hairs to translate sound vibrations into electrical signals. These signals are transported to the brain and turned into sound.

There are several causes of hearing loss, and here are a few:

  • Age: As people get older, the health and elasticity of the parts of the ear begin to reduce. 
  • Hereditary: A bloodline of hearing loss may make you susceptible to hearing loss. 
  • Exposure to loud noise: Being exposed to loud noise over a prolonged period can damage the inner ear cells, affecting sound waves’ transportation to the brain. This could be due to your job environment or recreational activities such as going to loud concerts or listening to music through earphones at high volumes.
  • Some illnesses and infections: Medical conditions such as ear infections, measles, mumps and meningitis may damage the cochlea. Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder, may also cause hearing loss.
  • The buildup of earwax: When earwax is left to accumulate in the ear, it may harden and block the ear canal. This, in turn, prevents sound waves from traveling through the ear.

Symptoms of hearing loss

Although hearing loss occurs gradually, there are tell-tale signs to indicate you may have to visit your audiologist. For example, if you have difficulty following and understanding a conversation in a noisy place. Also, if you notice a constant ringing in your ears or high pitch sounds are hard to hear.

You should also pay attention if you ask people to repeat themselves often. Difficulty watching TV or listening to the radio at average volumes are also things to look out for.

Prevention of hearing loss

Hearing loss is an irreversible health condition. However, there are several steps you can take to ensure that your auditory health is in good shape. Visit your audiologist regularly to detect problems early and receive advice from an expert.

Early detection of hearing loss and ear infections can prevent the complications associated with these health conditions. Avoid prolonged exposure to loud noise and music. And if your work environment is noisy, wear safety equipment, such as earplugs or glycerin-filled earmuffs, to protect your ears.