At Queen City Ear, Nose, and Throat, we offer comprehensive hearing evaluations and hearing loss solutions for patients of all ages. Whether you are a concerned parent who has recently identified a hearing condition in your child, or a senior citizen who has an existing hearing loss condition, we want to provide you with the best possible care. It is our mission to educate our patients on the significance of hearing loss and its impact on your overall health and quality of life.
How We Hear:
Hearing begins at the outer ear, where sound waves are funneled into the ear canal until they reach the eardrum (tympanic membrane) and cause it to vibrate. This vibration travels through the three tiny bones (malleus, incus, and stapes) that occupy the middle ear space. These bones amplify and transfer the sound waves into the inner ear by moving the fluid and hair-like cells that reside within the hearing organ, known as the cochlea. The cochlea converts these sound waves into electrical impulses. The auditory nerve sends the electrical impulses to the brain and the brain interprets them as sounds.
Understanding Hearing Loss:
There are three types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive and mixed. During your comprehensive hearing test, our audiologists will be able to discover which type of hearing loss you have. This will help determine the treatment options available for you.
Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL):
The most common type of hearing loss. SNHL is almost always permanent and is the result of either damage to the inner ear or damage to the auditory nerve itself. SNHL affects both overall loudness and clarity of speech.
Causes of SNHL:
- Normal aging (presbycusis)
- Extremely loud noise or prolonged noise exposure
- Infections (mumps, measles, etc.)
- Genetic syndrome
- Infection passed from a mother to fetus inside the womb (rubella, herpes, etc.)
- Cardiovascular disease
- Side effect of medications
- Autoimmune disease
- Traumatic head injury
- Other diseases (Meniere’s disease, acoustic neuroma, etc.)
Symptoms of SNHL:
- Hearing what someone said but not understanding what was said
- Noises may be too loud or too quiet
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)
- Speech sounds muffled
- Trouble understanding speech in noisy environments
- Increased volume on the TV
Conductive hearing loss:
Caused by damage or obstruction to the outer or middle ear. This prevents sound from reaching the inner ear which results in a loss of loudness, but not the loss of clarity. Conductive hearing loss can be either temporary or permanent depending on the cause.
Causes of Conductive Hearing Loss:
- Wax or foreign bodies in the ear canal
- Narrowing of the ear canal (stenosis)
- Swimmer’s ear (otitis externa)
- Bone-like growth in the ear canal (exostoses)
- Perforation in the eardrum or ear infection (otitis media)
- Abnormal growth or tumors in the middle ear space
- Ossicular chain discontinuity (break between the middle ear bone connections)
Symptoms of Conductive Hearing Loss:
- Unbalanced hearing (often affects only one ear)
- Pain and/or pressure
- Drainage in the ear canal
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ear)
- Feeling one’s voice is louder
- Increased volume on the TV
Mixed hearing loss:
Referred to when both a SNHL and conductive hearing loss component. For example, someone with age-related SNHL may have an ear infection creating a conductive component to their hearing loss. Causes and symptoms may be any combination of the two.
If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms of hearing loss, schedule an appointment at Queen City Ear Nose and Throat. Hearing loss is often progressive and can be hard to notice until you or a loved one starts to notice symptoms. It is important to obtain a baseline hearing test and monitor changes over the years in order to catch and treat hearing loss as soon as possible.
Please note, if you experience a sudden change in your hearing seek medical attention as soon as possible. Acting quickly can result in better outcomes.
The Impact of Hearing Loss:
There have been studies that have linked untreated hearing loss to a higher risk of dementia and an overall decrease in cognitive function. Untreated hearing loss often leads to anxiety and depression. This is partially due to the social withdrawal and isolation experienced by those with hearing loss.
Children with untreated hearing loss have a delay in the development of speech and language skills. They may not be able to clearly hear their teachers or classmates. This can cause them to fall behind their peers in academic performance, especially in reading and mathematical skills. They also may experience depression and isolation. See our article on Developmental Milestones for more information on this important topic.
Hearing Tests - What to expect:
During your hearing test, you will be asked questions regarding your symptoms and concerns. Your ears will be visually expected for signs of abnormalities, medical conditions or ear wax. You will likely receive a pressure test (tympanometry) to check the movement or flexibility of your eardrum and its ability to transmit sound, a tone test to measure how softly you can hear different pitches and speech tests in which you will be asked to repeat words to determine your ability to understand speech at different volumes. Your hearing test will be charted on an audiogram which will be explained to you along with treatment options on the day of your hearing test. Additional testing or modifications to the above testing may be provided depending on the patient’s age or if additional information is required.