Colorado ENT & Allergy provides full-service hearing screening and comprehensive testing of both auditory and balance function, hearing aids and assistive listening devices. We also offer a full line of analog, analog programmable, digital programmable & implantable hearing aids.
Hearing impairment is a condition affecting over 28 million Americans. While as many as half the people over the age of 60 experience some form of hearing impairment, it is certainly not a condition confined to later life. There are more people under the age of 65 living with hearing loss than over the age of 65!
In this section we explain types and degrees of hearing loss - how it affects people and their loved ones in their everyday lives.
Types of Hearing Loss
A common misconception is that hearing loss is akin to "turning down the volume". Most commonly, hearing loss affects frequencies of sound differently - consequently, this means that people miss parts of words, making conversations hard to follow, since much of the speech may sound like mumbling. In more general terms, hearing loss can be grouped into three main "types":
Conductive hearing loss
Caused by disorders of the outer and/or middle ear. Physical obstructions or abnormalities may block or inhibit the efficient entry of sound waves from reaching hearing nerves deeper in the ear. The result is an overall lowering of volume and inability to hear faint sounds. These hearing losses are usually temporary and can sometimes be reduced or eliminated by medical intervention or surgery.
Sensorineural hearing loss
Combines two sub-categories. Sensory hearing loss, arising from problems with the inner ear, and neural hearing loss, associated with abnormalities of the auditory neural pathway. In most cases, sensorineural hearing loss is permanent and usually affects both ears. This type of hearing loss is commonly treated through the fitting of hearing aids.
Mixed hearing loss
This is a mixture of both conductive and sensorineural elements.
Tinnitus is a "ringing in the ears" that afflicts 1 in 5 Americans.
Causes of hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when damage or trauma affects the nerve endings in the inner ear or along the nerve pathways to the brain. Such trauma can occur from overexposure to noise, the aging process, use of certain medications and many other causes. The damage not only lowers the overall hearing level, but also can selectively affect understanding of speech, ability to hear certain frequencies, and other specific symptoms, which are unique to every individual.
"Noise more a factor than age."
Exposure to prolonged loud noise is a more common cause of hearing loss than age (see pie chart). Ever-increasing levels of noise pollution are a factor in causing hearing loss. Industrial deafness can be caused by long-term exposure to noisy industrial environments.
Noise can do more damage than you may think - and the risk is widespread. Every day, millions of Americans expose themselves to noise levels that will almost inevitably lead to long-term hearing loss.
Prolonged and repeated exposure to lawn mowers, chainsaws, factory machinery, traffic and engine noise ... and loud music may cause hearing loss. The Loudness Scale chart shown above indicates the amount of exposure to various sounds that may cause hearing loss.
Taking steps to addressing hearing loss.
As hearing loss usually occurs gradually over time, it is often very advanced before people recognize and finally accept that they have a problem. They often compensate for this, making it difficult to perceive the gradual loss of their hearing ability in an objective way. That is why it is often loved ones who persuade or push people to have their first hearing test.
Digital sound processing is used to convert sound waves into digital signals. A computer chip in the hearing aid analyzes the signals of your environment to determine if the sound is noise or speech and then makes modifications to provide a clear, amplified distortion-free signal. This technology allows for improvement in programmability, greater precision in fitting, management of loudness discomfort, control of acoustic feedback and noise reduction.
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