As we get older, we can expect our bodies to age appropriately. Some people may develop wrinkles in their skin, others may have difficulties moving at a fast pace, and some will even experience a decrease or loss of hearing. However, hearing loss is not just a problem for aging adults. These changes are normal for everyone, but they can be very serious if you’re not careful. Hearing loss is more common than you think. It is estimated that 1 in every 8 people in the United States over the age of 12 experience hearing loss. But other than old age, why do so many adults have some level of hearing loss? The answer lies in the fact that hearing loss is caused by a multitude of factors, both external and internal. Here are a few reasons why adults can experience hearing loss:
Physical Damage to Inner Ear
The hairs or nerve cells in the cochlea that convey sound impulses to the brain may wear out with age and exposure to loud noise. Electrical signals aren’t conducted as efficiently when these hairs or nerve cells are injured or missing, resulting in hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent, because hair cells in the cochlea do not renew when they are destroyed. Hair cell death frequently leads to ganglion neuron degeneration, which complicates the treatment of hearing loss using cochlear implants, which activate the spiral ganglion neurons directly.
There is a strong link between certain diseases and infections and hearing loss in adults. If your hearing loss is the result of an acute infection, it can usually be treated with antibiotic medications. However, chronic ear infections, chronic middle ear fluid, and tumors typically require surgery. Also, some diseases that are seemingly unrelated to the ear can cause hearing loss:
- Meniere’s Disease
- Rheumatoid Arthritis
The auditory system can be harmed by a variety of substances and medications; the most common in clinical use are aminoglycosides (a specific type of antibiotic) and cisplatin (a chemotherapy drug), both of which are toxic to sensory hair cells. Hearing loss occurs in around 20% of people who use aminoglycosides. Clinically substantial hearing loss happens in around 60% of persons who have received cisplatin therapy for various cancers. The level of hearing loss due to medications can fluctuate depending on the specific dosage given. It is possible that this type of hearing loss can go undiagnosed because of its mild effect on the patient, but those with higher levels of hearing loss can receive a referral to a hearing specialist or audiologist.
The effects of aging on the auditory system are the major cause of adult onset hearing loss. Hearing loss in elderly people is caused by the cumulative effects of noise exposure, as well as the degenerative effects of aging on the cochlea. Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, is frequently bilateral and symmetric, and it is most noticeable at higher frequencies. Sensory presbycusis refers to death or damage of the cochlear sensory hair cells with aging. A prominent feature of this type of hearing loss is reduction in the ability to understand speech, even if the sounds seem loud enough. An audiologist can likely diagnose this type of hearing loss and provide the patient with a treatment plan that works for them.
Hearing loss can be a difficult condition to treat. However, there are treatments available that can help you manage your hearing loss effectively and with minimal side effects. Whether your hearing loss is caused by inner ear damage, age, a disease, or any other cause, your audiologist near you can work with you to treat it and find a solution. Contact the specialists at Camellia ENT if you are looking for advice on hearing loss or any other auditory questions you may have.