Hearing Loss

The purpose of an audiological evaluation is to determine hearing acuity. If hearing loss is identified, it is categorized by the type, the degree and the configuration of the loss.

Type

The type of hearing loss suggests the point in the auditory system where the loss is occurring.

  • Conductive: Temporary or permanent loss typically due to abnormal conditions of the outer and/or middle ear, such as earwax, infection or abnormal bone growth in the middle ear. May be medically or surgically treated by an ear, nose and throat physician or primary care provider.
  • Sensorineural: Typically a permanent hearing loss affecting the nerve cells in the cochlea and/or auditory nerve, which may be due to disease, the aging process, noise exposure, trauma or inherited conditions. Typically not medically or surgically treated.
  • Mixed: Combination of both conductive and sensorineural.

Degree

The degree categorizes the severity of the hearing loss.

  • Normal: Hearing is within normal limits, suggesting no hearing loss.
  • Mild: Minimal hearing loss; the individual will miss some consonants and vowels.
  • Moderate: Individual may understand face-to-face conversation in a quiet situation; can miss 50-75 percent of spoken language in the presence of background noise.
  • Moderately severe: Individual will miss most of all spoken message, even talking face-to-face.
  • Severe: Individual may not hear voice, unless speech is very loud.
  • Profound: Individual may not be able to detect the presence of speech or even loud environmental sounds.

Configuration

Configuration attributes:

  • Bilateral versus unilateral hearing loss
  • Symmetrical versus asymmetrical hearing loss
  • High frequency versus low-frequency hearing loss
  • Flat versus sloping hearing loss
  • Progressive versus sudden hearing loss
  • Stable versus fluctuating hearing loss

Depending on results, the audiologist may recommend amplification and/or possibly refer you to an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist.


Why Is It Important to Treat Hearing Loss?

  • Relationships: relationships rely on good communication; hearing loss can hinder the potential for responsiveness.
  • Earnings: hearing is critical to meeting one’s full potential at work; studies show that the risk of income loss can be reduced by using hearing aids.
  • Cognitive skills: studies show that seniors with hearing loss are more prone to dementia, but by using hearing aids, they likely can improve their cognitive skills.
  • Happiness: hearing loss can make people feel frustrated and alone. Restoring the ability to engage socially and live confidently boosts the quality of life.
  • Self-confidence: using hearing aids to bring back the gift of sound can improve one’s sense of control and self-confidence.

Are You At Risk?

Groups at risk for hearing loss include:

  • History of noise exposure
  • Family history of hearing loss
  • Natural decrease of hearing due to the aging process
  • Chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments

Signs and Symptoms

  • Complaints of muffled speech or that “everybody mumbles”
  • Difficulty understanding words against background noise or in a crowd of people
  • Turning the television or radio louder than other people would like
  • Difficulty hearing women or children
  • Asking for several repetitions – saying “what?” often
  • Straining to hear or follow conversations
  • Withdrawal from conversations due to difficulty understanding
  • Difficulty hearing on the telephone

If you or someone close to you is experiencing hearing loss, now is the time to talk to our audiologists about how we can make a difference.