Think back to the last time you listened to a song you loved or had a fun conversation with someone at a party. Now think about a time where a siren or perhaps the sound of footsteps behind you alerted you of danger. Each of these experiences was made possible by your sense of hearing. Like many things in life, there is no guarantee you’ll have perfect hearing. Hearing loss can affect the old, the young, and everyone in between.
When can your hearing weaken or deteriorate? The short answer is any time. On the younger side, it’s important for newborns to undergo a neonatal hearing screening, typically carried out after the baby is two days old. It is a quick and painless way to establish whether the child may have a hearing impairment. Early detection is paramount as research shows children receiving intervention earlier in life will develop at a rate closer to their peers.
Potential hearing interventions for children include hearing aids, cochlear (inner ear) implants, and wireless microphone systems. While these will not restore a child’s hearing, they can help a child make sense of amplified sounds and speech signals, especially when used in conjuncture with speech and music therapy. Whether it be auditory (listening), visual (sign language), or a combination of the two, it is crucial to set up a route to language development and communication for hearing-impaired children.
On the other side of the spectrum is Presbycusis: a gradual hearing loss that is common as we age. In the US, age-related hearing loss affects one in three people between the ages of 65 and 74 and almost 50 percent of those over 75. This kind of hearing loss is commonly caused by changes in the inner ear as we age, but middle ear changes or nerve pathway changes from the ear to the brain can also be to blame.
As with hearing-impaired children, the elderly can also benefit from one of the many styles of hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assistive listening devices that amplify and isolate sound. Bone-anchored hearing systems are another potential remedy. This technology utilizes a sound processor to pick up noise, convert it into vibrations, then relay sound waves through the skull bone and into the inner ear.
Lastly, there is noise-induced hearing loss, which can occur at any age and is triggered by long-term exposure to loud or long-lasting sounds. Chronic, loud noise exposure can damage the sensory hair cells in the ear that detect sound vibrations. These cells are unable to regenerate and any damage done will be permanent. On the bright side, this is the only type of hearing loss that is preventable. The antidote is simple — avoid death metal, leaf blowers, and other loud sounds whenever possible.
There are a few go-to doctors when it comes to hearing loss. An ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist will attempt to diagnose what caused the hearing loss and offer treatment options. An audiologist has specialized training to identify and measure the type and severity of your hearing loss. Finally, a hearing aid specialist can perform necessary hearing tests and find and fit a hearing aid that is best for you.
Remember detection is the first step to managing hearing loss. If you are concerned about hearing loss, call Dr. Joe Griffith today at (504) 738-4557 or visit accessiblehearingaids.com to schedule your appointment. Dr. Griffith is a certified audiologist who will address your concerns and ensure you get the hearing help you need and deserve.