Hearing Loss

Understand the symptoms and causes of hearing loss and know when to seek testing or treatment.

Signs

Causes

Comorbidities

Next Steps

Hearing Loss: Signs, Causes, & Comorbidities

Hearing changes can happen gradually, making hearing loss difficult to self-diagnose. In fact, most people are not able to identify a 'normal' level of hearing or dectect their own level of hearing loss without the help of a hearing care professional. If you find that hearing changes are impacting your life, relationships, work, or everyday interactions, now is the time to take the first step towards better hearing.

 

Amplifon can guide and support you every step of the way.

Hearing loss is common

Nearly 48 million Americans have hearing loss, a number that’s expected to climb rapidly over the next decade.

About 28.8 million American adults could benefit from hearing aids, but on average, people wait four years to seek help.

3 happy generations

A great place to start is to take our virtual hearing screening. It’s an easy and efficient way to discover your hearing level and whether there are potential issues that need to be addressed.

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5 signs of hearing loss

You need help understanding others

One early sign is misunderstanding people speaking to you, leading to miscommunications. If you often mistake what people say, it might be time for a hearing test.

You get complaints about volume

If your family, friends, and coworkers have voiced that you talk too loudly, and your music and television habits follow suit, it may be time for a hearing test.

You have trouble hearing in crowds

If you often have difficulty differentiating between who’s speaking to you in a noisy environment, you could be in the early stages of hearing loss.

You're constantly saying, "What?"

Asking others to repeat themselves is not only frustrating to those talking to you; it can start to make you feel uncomfortable. People suffering from hearing loss often nod and smile when people talk, even if they're not catching a word.

Your ears are ringing or buzzing

Tinnitus is frequently a hearing loss symptom, especially for those with noise-induced hearing loss.
Do these symptoms sound familiar? Start with a virtual screening
Provider looking in an ear
What is a normal hearing range?

For a healthy young person, the normal hearing range is about 20-20,000Hz. As we age, we tend to lose upper frequencies first. By middle-age, hearing loss ranges tend to sit right around 14,000Hz.

Common causes of hearing loss

Below are three of the most common causes of hearing loss and why they put your hearing at risk.

Noise

Age

Health

Noise

Noise-induced hearing loss

  • Exposure to loud environmental or work sounds such as traffic, drills, sirens, etc. 
  • Repeatedly listening to earbuds or headphones at high volumes
  • Exposure to an extremely loud noise,  such as an explosion

Related reading: 

Can Earbuds Cause Hearing Loss?

Welder

Age

Hearing can deteriorate as we age

  • Aging deteriorates inner ear function
  • The tiny hair-like cells helping you hear change and, over time, don’t function as optimally

Related reading:
Why Treating Hearing Loss is Foundational for Your Overall Health

Senior couple walking

Health

Health history

  • Certain infections, such as bacterial meningitis and mumps
  • Genetics may cause full or partial hearing loss at birth
  • Family health history
  • Chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease

Related reading: 

The Connection Between Heart Health and Hearing Loss

Man with ear pain

3 types of hearing loss

Sensorineural hearing loss

The most common type of hearing loss, this is a permanent loss that occurs when there is damage to the inner ear cells or the auditory nerve. For adults, the most frequent cause is exposure to loud noises over time.

Conductive hearing loss

This occurs when an obstruction or damage to the outer or middle ear prevents sound from being conducted to the inner ear. Depending on the exact cause, it may be permanent or temporary.

Learn more about Sensorineural vs. Conductive hearing loss

Mixed hearing loss

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss. It commonly occurs when damage or trauma to the ear is combined with hearing loss caused by noise exposure or aging.

The impact of hearing loss:

Comorbidities

Hearing loss is connected to many other health conditions throughout the body. While it may not directly cause these diseases or conditions, it is considered a risk factor for many.

Heart disease

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States, representing one in four deaths every year. And the link between heart disease and hearing has been well-established for years. Heart problems can cause plaque buildup in the arteries and restrict blood flow, which may cause irreversible damage to the ear. For example, poor circulation can reduce oxygen, causing damage to the delicate nerves inside the cochlea. These nerves play an essential role in translating noise from your ears to electrical impulses in your brain. 

An active lifestyle, including regular physical activity, a healthy diet, and good blood pressure ranges, can play a big part in a healthy cardiovascular system.

 

Diabetes

For years, scientists have suspected a connection between issues with blood sugar regulation and hearing loss. Recent research has solidified this suspicion, confirming a clear link between these two increasingly prevalent conditions. Diabetes can lead to damage to the small blood vessels throughout the body, including the inner ear, leading to hearing loss. Furthermore, damage to the auditory nerve can result in sensorineural hearing loss

Diabetes shares common risk factors with hearing loss, such as obesity, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. These conditions can independently contribute to both diabetes and hearing impairment, creating a complex interplay of factors that increase the risk of hearing loss in individuals with diabetes.

 

Sleep apnea

With sleep apnea, breathing slows too much and even stops for short periods during sleep. Breathing difficulties at night inhibit a restful sleep or alertness the next day. But sleep apnea is responsible for more than just sleep difficulties.

Some theories suggest that the inflammation and circulatory issues brought on by sleep apnea may lead to damage in the inner ear. At this point, the research doesn’t prove that sleep apnea causes hearing loss, only that it is associated with it. But there’s enough evidence to suggest that if you have sleep apnea, you should get your hearing checked.

 

Related conditions

Tinnitus

This ringing in the ear is the effect of inner ear damage or impairment. While most people experience moments or brief periods of hearing ringing in the ears during their lives (usually after extended exposure to a noisy environment or following a sudden, extremely loud sound), some people experience tinnitus more regularly.

Tinnitus is usually a symptom of another condition, which means first, you want to identify the underlying cause. Some causes, such as excess earwax buildup, hypertension, stress, anemia, or overconsumption of caffeine or cigarettes, can be treated or eliminated relatively easily.

While there’s no cure, hearing aids can give you lasting treatment and relief. Tinnitus treatment options include Sound therapy, which uses soothing audio to mask the tinnitus sound, and Notch therapy, a variation of sound therapy using a narrower band of sound.

 

Cognitive decline and dementia

Research suggests a strong association between untreated hearing loss and cognitive decline, including dementia and Alzheimer's disease. The exact mechanism behind this link isn’t fully understood, but it's believed that the strain of constantly trying to hear and understand conversations may lead to cognitive overload, contributing to decline over time. Hearing loss can affect your brain in many ways:

  • Your brain must work harder to process the sounds you hear, leading to an increased cognitive load.
  • Many people stop participating in group activities, which leads to social isolation and less brain stimulation. 
  • Your ears send fewer signals to your brain, which can lead to cognitive decline.

The good news is that proactive treatments can help ward off cognitive decline and dementia. Hearing aids are the most effective way to treat age-related or noise-induced hearing loss. It’s important to note that just because someone is at an increased risk for dementia does not mean that person is certain to develop it.

Meniere's disease

This chronic inner ear disorder causes recurring episodes of severe dizziness (vertigo), ear pressure, tinnitus, and hearing loss. It typically affects only one ear, although some people experience symptoms in both. 

Meniere’s disease is a complex, debilitating condition that can significantly impact a person’s way of life. Symptoms come on without warning, limiting participation in social, leisure, and work activities. And because scientists have yet to pinpoint the exact cause of the disease, it’s difficult to predict or prevent.

In recent years, we’ve gained a much better understanding of Meniere’s disease in recent years. While there’s no cure yet, various treatments can help alleviate and manage symptoms.

 

Luckily, early intervention, such as hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and communication strategies, can help mitigate the impacts and improve overall health outcomes. Addressing any underlying medical conditions or risk factors can help treatment work better and increase overall well-being.

Take the next step

I might have hearing loss

If you are experiencing hearing loss symptoms, take our quick online hearing quiz. 

You can also contact us directly to find a hearing care provider near you, schedule a hearing evaluation, and check if you have additional benefits through your health insurance provider or employer.

 

 

Take our online hearing quiz

I have hearing loss

If you have a diagnosis, Amplifon offers access to preferred hearing testing and device pricing. You may also benefit from additional savings through your health insurance provider or employer.

Call us at (877) 846-7074. Our friendly Hearing Care Advocates can help you find a nearby provider, explain our Amplifon Program, and help you make an appointment before sending you and your provider the necessary information to activate your Amplifon program.


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3 ways you can support someone with hearing loss

Be compassionate

Denial is common. Listen and offer support while emphasizing ways they can proactively treat or manage symptoms.

Share your knowledge

Advanced technology and personalized care have made hearing aids incredibly effective, comfortable, and nearly undetectable. Help educate the individual about different types of hearing aids and how to find the care they need.

Minimize anxieties

Seeking treatment can be overwhelming. Direct them to resources, like what to expect at their first appointment and understanding hearing aid costs. If you can, attend appointments and encourage them to contact Amplifon about their hearing care benefits.

Mother and daughter

Start prioritizing your hearing health

Think you may have hearing loss? Let our team help you take the next step in your hearing care journey. Our hearing care advocates can help you schedule an appointment for a hearing exam at a clinic near you and check your hearing benefits to see if you have coverage for hearing care and hearing aids.

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