There are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss occurs from loss of sound sensitivity resulting from abnormalities of the middle and/or outer ear. The auditory nerve’s function is still normal, the sound is just impeded from getting to the inner ear. This type of loss is common in children with ear infections; once the infection is cleared up, the hearing is restored.
Sensorineural hearing loss results from abnormalities of the inner ear and/or nerve paths to the brain. The auditory cells and nerve are permanently damaged. This is the type of hearing loss often referred to as “nerve deafness”.
Mixed hearing losses are those that have symptoms of both conductive and sensorineural hearing losses.
Does earwax cause hearing loss?
Earwax or cerumen is an oily, fatty substance that is created to protect the ear canal. Each individual creates different amounts of wax. It is possible for the wax to partially or completely occlude the ear canal. This can result in typically a mild to moderate conductive hearing loss, that once the wax is removed, the hearing is restored. Your audiologist can let you know if you have a wax buildup and how it can be removed.
What are some symptoms of hearing loss?
Others complain you have the television too loud
You have problems hearing birds or wind
You have difficulty hearing female voices or children
You have difficulty hearing in groups
You find yourself confusing words or making silly mistakes misunderstanding conversations
Other people, or family members, think you have a hearing loss
What symptoms indicate the need for a medical evaluation?
Bleeding/draining from your ears
Sudden hearing loss
Fluctuating hearing loss
Ringing in ears
Feeling of fullness or pressure in ears
What is the ringing in my head/ears?
The ringing sensation that can be detected in your head, or individual ears, is called tinnitus. This ringing is usually an indication of some damage to your auditory system (especially noise damage). It can be constant or periodic and on one specific side or in the middle of your head. There is no magic cure for tinnitus, but there are methods that can help you live with it. Sometimes hearing aids help by bringing more sound to the brain, thus distracting attention from the ringing. If you have ringing consistently on one side, you will want to ask your doctor about it.
Your ability to hear is as unique as your fingerprint. No two people have exactly the same hearing impairment.
Hearing loss is classified by several factors: degree, understanding ability, location of loss along the speech frequencies, and type of loss.
Degree: Degree refers to the amount/severity of the hearing loss. Hearing loss is ranked mild (slight difficulty hearing in daily environment), moderate (difficult to hear most sounds in your daily environment), severe (extremely difficult to hear all sounds in daily life) or profound (deaf).
Understanding Ability: Hearing and understanding are different. You may be able to hear sounds but not understand what is being said. Sometimes understanding ability is impaired as a result of a hearing loss. This is usually measured by a percentage of your understanding random words.
Location of Loss Along Speech Frequencies: Usually hearing loss does not affect all speech frequencies the same. For example, loud sounds damage hearing ability in the high frequencies. This creates a problem hearing sounds that are high in pitch (i.e.. female or children’s voices, birds, consonant sounds like “s” and “t”). Some other hearing losses, from head trauma or ear infections, can affect the low pitches (i.e.. male voices, loudness, vowel sounds).
Type of Loss: There are three types of hearing loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss: Conductive hearing loss results from a problem with the conduction of sound from the outer ear (part that you see) to the inner ear (where the nerve is located). This can result from wax buildup, ear infections, trauma to the ear, or any other problem with the eardrum or bones that conduct sound through the middle ear. Those with this type of loss have a problem with volume rather than understanding ability.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss: Sensorineural hearing loss involves some sort of deterioration of the inner ear or the hearing nerve. The aging process, noise-exposure, some cancer treatments, illness, and other degenerative processes could cause this loss. This type of hearing loss sometimes impairs understanding ability and causes those with the loss to be sensitive to loud sounds.
Mixed Hearing Loss: Mixed hearing losses contain some conductive elements and some sensorineural elements.
Is there anything I can do to restore my hearing?
Usually hearing loss is permanent. Consult with your doctor to see if your symptoms are medical in nature and need any treatment, especially if you have a sudden hearing loss. Even hearing instruments will not restore normal hearing. Hearing instruments will make previously missed sounds available at the level of stimulation your auditory system needs at that particular pitch.
Why do I only have difficulty hearing in crowds?
If you have difficulty hearing in crowds, you could have a high-frequency hearing loss. With this type of loss, you can hear well in one-on-one situations and even in small groups. However when you get around distracting speech/noise, you can hear the noise louder than the speech. Your normal low-frequency hearing picks up the low-pitched noise at a normal-hearing level, while you miss some of the high-frequency speech sounds, where your hearing loss is located, that bring in clarity. This hearing loss is not as noticeable when speaking with someone without any competing noise.
Why do I have a difficult time hearing female voices when I can hear male voices easily?
You may have a high-frequency hearing loss. Female voices, children’s voices, and even a majority of speech understanding lies in the high frequencies. If you have a high-frequency hearing loss you probably have a hard time hearing things, such as your wife’s voice. You may hear the low frequency sounds normally but miss the high frequency sounds.
I do not have a problem hearing, but I have a problem understanding.
Hearing and understanding are two different things. It is possible to hear something and not understand. This may be due to a high-frequency hearing loss. Most consonant sounds are high in pitch and bring clarity to speech. They help you discriminate between different words (i.e.. pick, tick, brick, lick, sick). If you have a high-frequency hearing loss, you miss the consonant clarity sounds while hearing the volume from the low pitches.
What is the difference between an audiologist and a hearing instrument specialist?
Both are options. A doctor, audiologist, hearing instrument specialist or a technician can be trained to perform a hearing test. Medical interpretations should be left to the doctor. If you have no medical contraindications, you are ready for a hearing instrument. (You may waive your right for a medical evaluation.) Audiologists and hearing instrument specialists are trained in the fitting of hearing instruments; however, audiologists need to have a doctorate of audiology degree to practice
Can you mail a hearing aid directly to me?
Mail-order hearing instruments is illegal in several states to protect the consumer. Hearing instruments are custom-made to fit your ear specifically. Only a hearing healthcare professional can determine a proper hearing instrument fitting. In addition, computers are used to program the hearing instrument to an individuals particular loss. Your professional has been trained to program these instruments based upon your hearing loss and complaints. Professionals also take measurements of the amount of benefit, or amplification, the hearing aid is giving you. To have your hearing instrument custom-fitted for you, it is recommended that you follow up with your professional.
Will wearing a hearing aid restore my hearing to normal?
Unfortunately, NO. Hearing aids are exactly as the name implies, aids. They will not restore your hearing to normal, but they will make most sounds available to you at your hearing level. Research shows that a large majority of aidable hearing loss can be helped with hearing aids.
Do I need two hearing instruments?
If you have a hearing loss in both ears it is recommended that you wear a hearing instrument in each ear. You can hear better out of two good ears rather than one.
Is there a hearing aid that can eliminate background noise?
No hearing instrument can completely eliminate background noise. Most of the time, background noise is speech, which is the exact same signal that the hearing aid is trying to amplify. Some hearing instruments can lessen the effects of a non-speech noise while some hearing instruments can boost the sounds in front of you while decreasing those behind you. This second method works well when you are facing the speaker you want to hear and when you have your back to noise you do not want to hear. This effect is referred to as directionality.
What is the “best” hearing instrument on the market?
There is not one “best” hearing instrument on the market. A hearing instrument that works well for one individual may not produce the same results for someone else since everyone has different listening needs. Each major manufacturer makes a product that is highly comparable to other manufacturer’s product. The “best” hearing instrument for you is one that can meet your needs, offers you a good warranty and service, and one that your professional is experienced in fitting.
My friend did not have a positive experience with hearing aids, will the same happen to me?
Everyone’s hearing loss is unique. Although someone you know may have had a negative experience with hearing instruments, you may not have the same experience. Professionals’ ability to fit hearing instruments vary, as do hearing aids and technology. Do not base your hearing upon someone else’s experiences.
Do hearing instruments need repair?
Yes, occasionally hearing instruments need repair. Hearing aids are exposed to a damp, waxy environment on a daily basis. Because of this, and normal wear and tear, you can expect to face a repair or two during the life span of your hearing instrument. Hearing aids come with a two year warranty that covers loss, damage, and repair. After the warranty has expired, you can pay a set fee (approx. $150) and the hearing aid will be repaired by the manufacturer and come back with a year warranty from the point that it was sent it. Some hearing aids can be fixed in house. There is usually no charge for this.
How long does it take to adjust to new hearing instruments?
You should notice results within minutes, but it may take several months to completely realize the benefits of your new hearing instruments. Hearing tends to deteriorate gradually over time, so when sounds are reintroduced to the brain in a 30-minute fitting session, it can be overwhelming. The brain may have to relearn the classification of some sounds. Even though it may take several months to completely adjust to hearing through hearing aids, it should only take a week or two for you to notice benefits.
How much do batteries cost?
Fairfax Hearing Center provides hearing aid batteries for the life of the hearing aids. As long as you are still wearing your hearing aids, we will provide hearing aid batteries to you at no cost.
How long do batteries last?
Usually batteries last approximately 4-7 days when the instrument is used full-time (morning to night, on a daily basis). However more specifically, the average life of a battery will depend on the size of the battery and how many hours a day the hearing aids are worn.
Are batteries harmful?
Hearing instrument batteries are harmful if swallowed. Please keep them out of children’s reach and away from all medications.
Other Assistive Devices
Besides hearing aids, what is available to help me hear?
Assistive listening devices are available to help you hear the television, telephone, doorbell, baby cries, and different listening environments. Click here to find out more about some of these products.