Welcome to the Hearing Loss Overview training video presented by the Department of Defense Hearing Center of Excellence. I’m Dr. Matthews.
And I’m Dr. Reynolds. Prolonged or repeated exposures to loud noises over a long period of time can cause irreversible and permanent damage to hearing. Noise-induced hearing loss and tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, can also occur with sudden exposure to impulse noises. These exposures can happen at work or at home, or during recreational activities.
Hearing loss can affect people of all ages. Hearing damage can result from many different causes, including:
- Physical defect of any part of the auditory system
- Ear infection or ear abnormality that restricts movement of the ossicles, or small bones, in the middle ear space
- Physical injury, such as a hole in the ear drum, concussion, skull fracture, or traumatic brain injury
- Illness or disease, such as autoimmune inner ear disease, diabetes, or hypertension, or
- Ototoxic medication, like certain antibiotics taken with chemotherapy drugs, or other combinations of medications
Unlike an injury to another part of your body, such as a painful broken arm that heals over time, noise-induced hearing loss is usually a painless and invisible injury.
Dr. Matthews makes a good point about noise-induced hearing loss. It can also progress over time with repeated exposures to loud noises, or it can be immediate if you’re exposed to a loud impulse noise like an explosion. Keep in mind that noise-induced hearing loss is preventable with the proper use of hearing protection.
There are three basic types of hearing loss. The type is based on the part of the auditory system that is damaged. The three types are conductive, sensorineural, and mixed hearing loss.
Hearing loss can be mild to profound, temporary or permanent, gradual or sudden, and noise-induced or the result of another cause. It’s important to understand how hazardous noise affects hearing and to take precautions to prevent hearing loss and tinnitus.
If you have questions about your hearing, or if you think you might have hearing loss, talk to your hearing health provider or audiologist for more information.
The perception of sound when no external sound is present, is known as tinnitus. It’s often heard as a ringing in the ears, but it can be present in other forms. People sometimes describe it as a constant or intermittent tone, clicking, hissing, roaring, or buzzing.
It’s also true that some people develop tinnitus gradually, and for others it begins suddenly. Tinnitus may be present all the time, or it may come and go. It can vary in pitch and intensity, or loudness, and it can affect one or both ears. Tinnitus can seem like a continuous or intermittent sound or, in some cases, pulsate with your heartbeat.
Keep in mind that some people develop tinnitus for no obvious reason. Most of the time, tinnitus is not a sign of a serious health problem.
An estimated 36-50 million adults in the United States report some degree of hearing loss. This number includes nearly 2 million veterans with service-connected, hearing-related disabilities. Hearing loss can get worse over time, especially if the cause is due to ongoing, unprotected, repeated exposure to loud noise.
There are several questions to ask yourself if you think you are experiencing hearing loss. These questions include:
- Do people seem to mumble or not speak clearly?
- Do you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves?
- Do sounds seem distorted or muffled?
- Do you have a problem hearing over the telephone?
- Do you have trouble hearing in a noisy background?
- Do you have problems hearing the TV?, or
- Do you find that your family complains to you that the TV volume is too loud?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you may be experiencing hearing loss. Check with your hearing health provider or audiologist for more information about the nature of hearing loss or to schedule a hearing test.
Hearing loss affects each person differently and depends on the nature and degree of their condition. In many cases, hearing loss can have a significant impact on family, relationships, career, and quality of life.
Hearing loss can affect how you function on the job and in your home environment. Since it can slowly get worse over time, you may not notice the subtle changes in your hearing. As a result, hearing loss is often first identified by a spouse, family member, friend, or co-worker.
That’s right. We don’t always think about it, but hearing is a critical component of communication. In a group setting, hearing loss may cause you to feel less connected and that you’re not part of the group. Not understanding a conversation can limit your ability to fully participate, which can lead to feelings of social isolation or depression.
Quality of life often depends on the relationships we have with the people we love and care about, especially family members. Hearing loss can affect those relationships, along with the health and wellness of a family.
Other quality of life issues related to hearing loss may include:
- Withdrawing from family members or friends
- Feeling alone, vulnerable, or unsafe
- Not participating in social gatherings
- Being frustrated or angry
- Giving up enjoyable activities, or
- Feeling anxious or fatigued
Remember that living with hearing loss can be an adjustment for the one who experiences it, as well as for family, friends, and co-workers. There are many valuable resources, information, and technologies available to help.
If you have questions about your hearing or if you have difficulty hearing, contact your hearing health provider or audiologist for more information, or to schedule a hearing test.
You can also visit the DoD Hearing Center of Excellence web site at hearing.health.mil for more in-depth information about hearing and your hearing health.