Hearing loss is most often linked to older people, and not even special devices or telephones for seniors can fix the process and help them in most cases. However, there is hope for those who suffer from noise-induced ear affections as this could be reversed, according to new medical studies.
Hearing loss can occur at any stage in life but it is more common for old people. It is called presbycusis and affects about a third of the entire population over the age of 65 years. In the United States, nearly 35% of people aged 65-75 suffer from one form of hearing loss, while about half of the people older than 75 deal with similar problems.
What are the symptoms of hearing loss?
As we previously mentioned, hearing difficulties can occur at any age, and this includes babies born with ear problems. It is extremely important to recognize the signs and symptoms of hearing loss from an early stage to have the chance of a normal life later on.
Some of these symptoms include the difficulty of understanding words, especially in loud or noisy environments, muffling of speech, frequently asking people to speak louder, clearly or slower, and the constant need to turn up the volume of the TV or radio.
In time, social gatherings or loud environments will be avoided by those with hearing problems, leading to further isolation, and feelings of loneliness and anxiety.
When to see a doctor?
A visit to the doctor doesn’t necessarily mean you are ill or need treatment. On the contrary, if more people would base their lives on prevention rather than treatment, they could live longer and healthier, without the costs of surgeries, pills, and other treatments.
Although aging is an irreversible process and, in time, you will need certain supplements or medication to remain healthy, keeping an active lifestyle and enjoying a balanced diet can save you thousands of dollars.
Thus, we strongly recommend having regular visits to your physician from an early age, even if you seem strong and healthy.
If you work in loud environments or deal with high noises on a regular basis, you should have an audiogram every year or so. The same goes for people who are over the age of 60, apart from other yearly medical checkups.
What are the main causes of hearing problems?
For most people, the loss of hearing is the last step in the ear’s gradual degeneration. Although hearing loss is an irreversible process, some hearing deficiencies can be corrected in time, if the factors that caused them are identified and eliminated.
Gradual buildup of earwax
Believe it or not, this is one of the main reasons why people start having hearing problems. Earwax can block the ear canal, preventing sound waves from passing through the outer ear and cause vibrations at the eardrum.
Make sure to maintain proper ear hygiene by cleaning the inside with the help of professional products. Cotton swabs shouldn’t be abused though, as they can cause more damage to the ear. Opt for special sprays that dissolve ear wax or ask professional help from your physician.
Damage to the inner ear
Prolonged exposure to loud noise and aging can cause permanent damage to the ears and result in hearing loss or other related problems. Although you cannot always stay away from loud environments, you should find alternative ways to protect your ears.
Use soundproof ear buds and special protective gear whenever you work with loud equipment. People who work in construction or in the sound engineering industry are prone to develop hearing difficulties in the future, so you should try to avoid prolonged exposure to high noise.
Depending on how high some noises are, specialists don’t recommend exposure to them for more than 10-15 minutes a day without protective headphones or soft ear plugs.
Ruptured eardrum or tympanic membrane perforation
Sudden changes in pressure, poking the eardrum with sharp objects, infections or loud blasts of noise can cause permanent damage to the tympanic membrane. Unfortunately, most of the actions leading to a ruptured eardrum are accidents which cannot be avoided, unless you wear protective ear gear all the time.
There is also a series of risk factors that can lead to ear damage and hearing problems, no matter how careful you are throughout your life.
First of all, aging causes the degeneration of the inner ear structures, especially in patients over 65 years old. Mild forms of hearing deficiencies can be corrected with the help of hearing aids and other devices that can amplify the surrounding sounds.
As we already mentioned, prolonged exposure to loud sounds will cause damage to the cells of your inner ear, leading to hearing problems. However, you can also cause damage to your ears through a short blast of noise, such as the ones from a gunshot.
Therefore, if you own a weapon or consider learning to fire a gun, you should always wear protective headphones. Heredity is another risk factor that makes certain people more susceptible to hearing deficiencies.
Certain medications can also pose a risk to the health of your ears. Antibiotic gentamicin, Viagra, and some chemotherapy drugs may help you in one department but can cause serious damage to your inner ear. The most common side effects of these medications include tinnitus (ringing in the ears), and temporary hearing loss.
High doses of pain relievers, including aspirin, as well as loop diuretics or antimalarial drugs, are also said to cause mild to moderate hearing deficiencies in some patients.
How long should you expose yourself to high noises?
According to studies conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the safe noise level measures about 70 decibels. The louder the noise, the less time it takes to permanently affect your ear and sense of hearing.
In order to compare the effect of various noises, you should know that whispering measures 30 decibels, while a normal conversation measures about 60 decibels. On the other hand, heavy city traffic or school cafeterias are credited with about 85 decibels, and the ambulance siren is said to have 105-110 decibels.
Certain leisure activities like riding a bike or a snowmobile can affect your hearing in the long term, same as exposure to noises caused by thunder, firecrackers, firearms, chain saws or rock concerts.
However, this doesn’t mean that you cannot enjoy a rock concert or riding your bike on a regular basis. As long as you use protective helmets, earbuds, and sound-proof headphones, you should be safe.
Can hearing loss be reversed?
Although most forms of hearing loss cause permanent damage and are irreversible, learning to correctly identify the first signs of hearing problems can prevent or minimize further damage.
For instance, earwax buildup is reversible, meaning that if you enjoy proper ear hygiene, hearing won’t be affected in the long term.
As we stated before, cotton swabs might not be the best solution because you can push the wax in deeper. Opt for other home treatments, including ear drops or rubbing a few drops of mineral oil in the ear to soften the wax and eliminate it. However, consider seeing a doctor if home remedies don’t work or you have diabetes.
Common ear infections are also reversible if you follow a strict medical treatment. Ear infections can cause balance problems, headaches, nausea, and mild hearing loss.
Sudden sensorineural hearing loss is usually reversible but it depends on how soon you begin treatment. The good news is that about 50% of people with this condition regain hearing on their own in a couple of weeks, without requiring any special treatment. However, severe cases should be treated by specialists but this doesn’t guarantee that you will completely regain your hearing ability.
Age-related hearing loss is irreversible, although recent medical studies suggest that doctors may be on the verge of a breakthrough in the field. Scientists are currently studying different species of birds and fish that can keep their hearing intact by regenerating the special sensory hair cells found inside the ear, in the cochlea. Mammals are the only vertebrates that don’t have this function.
Even so, hearing deficiencies can be treated with the help of cochlear implants or hearing aids.