Even relatively mild hearing loss can seriously disrupt how we interact and connect with others. Healthy hearing is a complex system. Ear problems in general can prevent crucial pieces of sound information from reaching the brain, causing frequent misunderstandings.
Over time, you may find yourself missing out on the things you love.
- Do you feel like you can hear, but you can’t understand?
- Are other people complaining that the TV or radio is turned up too loud?
- Does it seem like people are mumbling?
- Does it seem to be harder to hear in background noise or groups?
Great things happen when you treat your hearing loss!
- Increased performance in conversations
- More satisfying social life
- Improved relationships
- Reduced risk of cognitive decline
- Increased income and work opportunities
Your first appointment will give you the answers.
- Learn about the structures of the ear
- Share your difficulties with an understanding professional
- Experience a comprehensive evaluation of your hearing
- Plan your customized solution with the audiologist
My focus is on an educational approach to treating patients. If you understand how the ears work and how the treatment plan will ultimately help you, we can work together as a team to reach your goals. Dr. Jessica Dimmick, AuD
Types of Hearing Loss
Commonly, an ear problem in the outer or middle ear is referred to as a conductive hearing loss, while inner-ear problems or brain-processing difficulties are referred to as sensorineural hearing loss. These are two distinct types of hearing loss with differing treatment methods.
Common Types of Hearing Loss
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
The most common type of hearing loss is the result of damage to the delicate hair cells in the inner-ear organ of hearing (the cochlea) that organize and transmit sound to the brain. When these hair cells, or the nerves they connect to, are damaged; the result is difficulty understanding. Nearly 95% of adult cases of hearing loss are sensorineural in nature. The only treatment for sensorineural hearing loss is amplification through a hearing aid or in rarer cases, a cochlear implant.
Conductive Hearing Loss
This type of hearing loss occurs as the result of an infection or blockage in the outer or middle ear. Otitis media (middle-ear infections) can sometimes cause difficulty hearing due to a fluid buildup. Otitis externa (swimmer’s ear) or a buildup of earwax may create a blockage outside the eardrum. This type of hearing loss is typically reversible once the infection or blockage clears, or once necessary surgery is performed. A referral to an Ear Nose and Throat (ENT) specialist is recommended in the event of a diagnosis of conductive hearing loss. Approximately 5% of adults have a conductive type of hearing loss.
Mixed Hearing Loss
A mixed hearing loss typically refers to a combination of a conductive hearing loss and a sensorineural hearing loss. A condition effecting the ossicles of the middle ear (tiny bones that conduct sound) is a common example of a mixed hearing loss. Hearing may improve after the conductive portion of the hearing loss is resolved through treatment or surgery; however, the sensorineural component of the hearing loss is permanent.
Sudden Hearing Loss
A sudden loss in hearing, either entirely or partially, within a 24-hour period is a medical emergency. While sudden hearing loss is rare, it’s possible that hearing may never return without immediate medical attention. Treatment is administered by a physician and may include steroids to support the recovery of hearing. Not sure where to go? Call our office and we can help.
What caused my hearing loss?
There can be one cause or many. Hearing loss is a common condition, for most people, it’s also very treatable. Let’s help you reconnect to life with better hearing.
Did You Know?
The ear is the most efficient and the most sensitive sensory organ in the body. Our perception of the world is strongly influenced by visual stimuli, which is why we often underestimate the role of our ears.
The inner ear contains about 3,000 inner and 12,000 outer hair cells. They are extremely sensitive and can be destroyed by noise, causing irreparable hearing loss.
Addressing your hearing loss has many advantages
- Improved confidence
- Slow down cognitive decline
- Improved emotional and physical health
- Reduced listening effort
- Improved communication in relationships
- Reduced mental stress
- Increase your earning power
- Improve your fall risk
- Reduce annoyance related to tinnitus
- Decreased incidence of depression
The ear is the most efficient, and at the same time, the most sensitive sensory organ of human beings. Our perception of the world is strongly influenced by visual stimuli, which is why we often underestimate the role of our ears.
- Distinction: Our ears can distinguish up to 400,000 different sounds. They process twice as many impressions as our eyes; about 50 per second.
- Warning System: Our hearing is on alert 24 hours a day, even when we sleep.
- First Hearing Experiences: Babies can hear 16 weeks after conception. After birth they immediately recognize their mother by her voice.
- Hair cells: The inner ear contains about 3,000 inner and 12,000 outer hair cells. They are extremely sensitive and can be destroyed by noise, causing irreparable hearing loss.
We can protect our hearing if we handle it with care
- Wear ear plugs at concerts, in recreational spaces with high noise levels.
- Take breaks from acoustic activity by switching off constant background noise (TV and radio).
- At the first signs of a hearing loss, tinnitus, or acute ear related discomfort, immediately consult an ENT or audiologist.
Hearing loss is the most prevalent chronic health condition experienced by males 75 and older. Source: National Academy on an Aging Society
- 1 in 3 people over age 60 have hearing loss.
- 1 in 5 teenagers have some type of hearing loss
- 1 in 14 Generation Xers already have hearing loss
- 1 in 6 baby boomers have hearing loss
- 74% of adults get their eyes examined every 2 years.
- 62% of adults visit a dentist each year.
- Only 23% of adults receive hearing screenings during physical exams.
The Connection Between Hearing Loss and Mental Health
Hearing health is very closely tied to mental health. It's true! The connection between how we hear strengthens our bond with others and feeds a part of our brain like exercise builds our muscles. Hearing loss results in a poorer quality of life and can contribute to cognitive decline.
You've heard how crossword puzzles help keep you sharp, how about a baseline hearing test to check up on your hearing health? Your brain (and loved ones) will thank you!
Uncorrected hearing loss gives rise to poorer quality of life, isolation and reduced social activity, leading to depression.
Adults 50 years and older with untreated hearing loss are more likely to report depression, anxiety, anger and frustration, emotional instability and paranoia; than those who wear hearing aids.
Those with hearing loss experience a 30-40% greater decline in thinking abilities compared to those without hearing loss.
Core services we offer
At your first appointment, your audiologist or hearing instrument specialist will do a full case history to help determine the source of your hearing loss or tinnitus. A full diagnostic hearing evaluation will assess your hearing ability. Further testing and questionnaires will determine how your auditory condition affects your quality of life. These assessments are selected based on your needs. We will discuss your test results and recommendations for treatment.
Due to the different sources that may cause hearing loss or tinnitus, some conditions may require management or treatment by outside professionals. Some hearing disorders are temporary and require immediate medical attention. Your audiologist or hearing instrument specialist will follow the recommended protocol to help guide you through possible forms of relief and whether further medical attention is warranted.
Hyperacusis is the abnormal sensitivity to sound. In other words, environmental sounds that would otherwise be normal are not tolerated well and are very loud or uncomfortable. Hyperacusis is not the sensitivity to very loud or loud sounds, however. Individuals with Hyperacusis may find everyday sounds like a car engine, paper rustling, or even louder conversation as being so intolerable that these situations are avoided.
According to The Hyperacusis Network, approximately 1 in 50,000 experience Hyperacusis. It can occur in those with hearing loss as well as those with normal hearing. Moreover, those with Hyperacusis often have Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. Several diseases or disorders are linked to Hyperacusis, such as Meniere’s Disease, Autism, or Bell’s Palsy. Hyperacusis may also result from exposure to loud or unsafe noises.
In some cases, the issue of sensitivity may go away on its own. In others, treatment such as desensitization may be useful to help build up tolerance to bothersome sounds.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL) is hearing loss that is caused by exposure to hazardous noise suddenly or for extended periods of time.
Those most at risk for NIHL include those whose job has exposure to hazardous noise.
- Factory workers
- Construction workers
Additionally, those with loud hobbies, such as lawn mowing, playing recreational music, attending concerts, hunting, or working with power tools may experience NIHL.
Symptoms may include sensitivity to everyday sounds (Hyperacusis), difficulty hearing, or ringing or noises in the ears (Tinnitus). Results are confirmed on a full hearing evaluation, where a “notch” is noted at specific frequencies of the hearing test. The prevalence of NIHL has increased in recent years, where the exposure of loud music through headphones or earbuds has become more frequent, especially in teenagers and young adults. Staying informed about hazardous noise and hearing protection can help prevent Noise-Induced Hearing Loss across the lifespan.
Loud noises can damage the inner ear and cause hearing loss. A lot of patients have very noisy jobs or hobbies. It is my job to educate patients on what sounds are too loud and how to use hearing protection. Custom ear protection can be made from a mold of your ear to ensure you have appropriate hearing protection for all your noisy environments! Russ Sweet, Hearing Instrument Specialist