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Hearing Loss

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Hearing Loss - Health and Resources
Tracy L. Scarborough
January 12, 2015
Deanna Dubay

Hearing Loss - Health and Resources
Hearing loss is one of the most common anomalies in the general population and is largely irreversible. For most, it’s caused by heredity, old age and, over time, by exposure to loud noises such as technology devices and occupational hazards. Singularly, trauma to the ears can cause short term hearing loss due to disruption in conduction. Loud venues (concert), eardrum perforation, fluid in the inner ear and excessive earwax can all cause temporary deafness. (Mayo clinic website). There are 3 passageways for hearing conduction: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.
Outer Ear The shape of the ear is designed specifically to direct sound waves. The outer ear is the part that can be externally visualized on the head, consisting of the concha (top curve of the ear), the pinna (lower trough of the ear) and the auditory canal. Sound waves travel through this anatomy and towards the tympanic membrane. (How Hearing Works printout)
Middle Ear The tympanic membrane, or eardrum, vibrates upon reception of the sound and is picked up by the bones of the middle ear (incus, malleus and stapes) and those vibrations are amplified before transmittal to the inner ear where the cochlear fluids become stimulated. When a hearing loss is traced to this area of the ear, it’s conductive and can be corrected with a simple surgical procedure or placement of hearing aids. (How Hearing Works Printout)
(Hearing Health Foundation Website)
Inner Ear Inside the cochlea, specialized hair cells respond to any movement of the cochlear fluids. Sound is then converted via the hair cells and transferred to neural signals that is moved through the auditory nerve to the brain’s central auditory complex (contained within the frontal lobe) where it can be processed as sound. This entire process takes nanoseconds to complete. A hearing loss which is traced to this part of the ear is considered sensorineural and is not helped by hearing aids. Only cochlear implants can be used to correct. (How Hearing Works printout)
Symptoms of hearing loss include muffled words or hearing the wrong words, asking others to repeat themselves more frequently, increased difficulty in understanding conversations in crowded rooms and/or having to increase the volume when listening to the radio or viewing television.
Common Sounds and Loudness Levels The level of noise and the length of time one listens to said noise can exponentially increase your risk for hearing loss induced by loud noises. Noise levels are measured in decibels (dB) – the higher the decibel level, the louder the noise. Noises >85 dB can damage the hearing to permanence. (American Speech-Language website)
Quiet library: 30dB Moderate rainfall: 50dB Conversation, dishwasher: 60dB Vacuum cleaner: 70dB Passing motorcycle: 90 dB Hand drill: 100dB Max volume of most mp3 players: 110dB Siren: 120dB Firearms: 140dB Fireworks at 3 feet: 150dB
Risk Factors Aging, heredity, occupational and recreational exposure, some illnesses and some medications can all cause temporary hearing loss. Exposure over years with age and work conditions can exacerbate hearing loss or tinnitus, or “ringing in the ears”. Recreational activities that involve loud equipment or machinery (firearms, motorcycling) can do permanent damage with exposure. Also, medications such as chemotherapy or the antibiotic Gentamycin can affect the inner ear. Tinnitus will occur with high doses of Aspirin or Ibuprofen and high fevers can damage the cochlea.
Tests and Diagnoses A physical exam or simple hearing test can be conducted by your physician. Through personal experience, if hearing loss is exhibited, a referral to a specialist can be made and more invasive testing can be oversee by an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist. Specialized equipment in the form of a tuning fork or audiometer will then be used to further test hearing. A tuning fork is a two pronged handheld instrument about the size of an eating fork that can be used to determine where the hearing loss is occurring. An audiometer is a more specified hearing test, where different words, tones and sounds are conducted through headphones and the patient’s hearing ability is analyzed based on his/her responses to said exam.

Treatments and Drugs
If a blockage is occurred, it can usually be removed in the office with a small suction device. If surgical intervention is necessary, tubes can be utilized to return the hearing to a level of normal. Otherwise, hearing aids may be prescribed to make the muffled sounds louder and more precise to each individual. With severe hearing loss, cochlear or conduction amplifiers can be implanted and the damaged areas of the inner ear can be compensated.
Possible Prevention
As with any medical problem, timely intervention can make the difference between a nagging hearing problem and permanent hearing loss. With other hazards, wear approved ear protection based on the noise level and limit time of risk for each and every occurrence. Have your hearing assessed by a physician frequently and preventive measures can be taken so further damage doesn’t occur.
Body Systems Affected by Hearing Loss Hearing, since it’s heralded in the main senses, can affect all of the remaining senses: speech is impaired over time; taste can be affected if an eardrum perforation or sinus infection is the cause; smell can become more pronounced and effective. Even balance can be changed – the cochlea is the balance center of the body and any anomaly can cause dizziness and/or unsteady gait, as well as motion sickness and nausea.

Conclusion Hearing is one of the privileges we are given as humans. With so many causative factors of hearing loss, the most plausible defense is prevention – ear protection at all times is the easiest, least expensive and most viable solution. If heredity and age aren’t a factor, the only common response is to invest in a set of noise canceling ear muffs or ear plugs to be utilized when in areas of loud noise. As always, you should be seen by a physician regularly and appointments should always be made if an acute issue arises.…...

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