The human body is a mysterious landscape. While we have exponentially more understanding of the ways our systems work compared to hundreds of years ago, unexpected symptoms and medical cases appear all the time. With a design so particularly complex, it’s no wonder that we don’t have everything figured out.
That’s especially true of our sense of hearing. Partly reliant on the physical architecture of our ears and inextricably linked to the brain’s intricate workings, unusual issues and cases are bound to occur.
Our modern understanding of hearing loss
Thankfully, we don’t subscribe to the treatments of hearing loss that our ancient ancestors did. We know enough not to fry peach pits in hog fat, which people did before applying the fat directly into the ear in order to cure deafness.
We know that most hearing loss occurs through genetics, physical damage to the ear or brain, the aging process or exposure to excessive noise.
Types of hearing loss
We can widely designate all hearing loss into two types: conductive and sensorineural. In the case of the former, there is an obstruction in the ear which blocks sound from reaching the ear drum. This can be a bony growth or tumor, a physical object (common with young children) and even ear wax buildup. In most cases, hearing loss is reversible.
With sensorineural hearing loss, there has been damage to the inner ear or the parts of the brain that process sound. The two most common types of this hearing loss are age-related and noise-induced. In both instances, the sensitive cells of the inner ear begin to decay, which allows us to receive less sound from the external world and produce less sound information to the brain. This type of hearing loss is almost always permanent, though it is highly treatable.
When we talk about noise-induced hearing loss, we are referring to excessive exposure to too-loud noise, either all at once or slowly and over time. With more than 30 million Americans living with hearing loss, chances are that some people have damaged their ears with sounds from unconventional means.
Scientists in Canada’s University of Alberta found that the sound emitted from popping a balloon will cause damage similar to firing a loud shotgun.
But there are other unexpectedly loud listening environments that we put ourselves in regularly without considering we may be harming our hearing. Sporting events, for instance, can reach extreme noise levels. Season ticket holders might consider adding an order of ear plugs to their favorite seats.
Quite the modern problem, the very instrument included in your car’s safety protocol can damage hearing. In cases of an automobile accident, an airbag can absolutely save your life. However, a study conducted in Japan revealed that the noise levels of some car’s airbag systems are up to twenty percent louder than the recommended threshold of volume. It’s a finding backed up by other statistics, as seventeen percent of folks in auto accidents where airbags deployed lost their hearing.
There are a few illnesses not known for their impact on hearing health that can lead to hearing loss. Both shingles and measles can do permanent damage to your ears. Shingles can trigger Ramsay Hunt Syndrome, impacting a facial nerve connected to the ear. In some cases, immediate treatment can prevent long lasting damage.
Approximately one in ten people with measles encounter ear infections. When severe, these infections can damage the tissues of the ear to the extent that hearing loss occurs.
Pain relievers and other ototoxic medications
Many of us pick up a bottle of Aspirin or Ibuprofen for our family’s medicine cabinet, not suspecting that this over-the-counter pain reliever can harm hearing health if used excessively. These types of medications are called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). In high doses, they can restrict blood flow to the ear and damage our important and delicate inner ear cells.
Medications that are dangerous for our ears are called ototoxic. Treatment of serious diseases like cancer might include drugs known to be ototoxic. Sometimes, the risks associated with these drugs are tolerated because the condition being treated is so dire.
Schedule a hearing consultation
While the cause of a person’s hearing loss can vary, hearing health is an important part of leading a vibrant life. Schedule a consultation with our team today, where we’ll lead you through a simple hearing exam. From there, we’ll work together to get you on the path to your healthiest hearing.