The most common cause of hearing loss is nature, where people experience hearing loss with ageing. On average men will start to lose their hearing at the age of 55 and women at 62. If one is exposed to significant noise, whether it is work or recreational noise the onset of hearing loss can occur much sooner than the average. Hearing loss occurs when there is a breakdown in the pathway of hearing and interpreting sounds. The main causes of hearing loss include:
Hearing loss that is caused by age is often referred to as age-induced hearing loss or Presbycusis. Like the rest of our body, over time, our ears age and consequently our hearing can also diminish.
The cause of age-induced hearing loss is the natural deterioration of the hair cells within the inner ear. For some people this can occur rather rapidly and for others it occurs gradually over time.
Age-induced hearing loss is a non-preventable, natural occurrence for most people as they age.
The second main cause of hearing loss is noise-induced hearing loss. 37% of people have hearing loss caused by excessive exposure to loud noise. Noise exposure at unsafe levels causes damage to the inner ear. When a person is either exposed to very loud sound for an unsafe amount of time, or when a person is exposed to reasonably loud sound for extended periods of time, hearing loss occurs.
Hearing loss which is either age-induced or noise-induced is an irreversible condition. Unlike other parts of our body, our hearing does not regenerate or repair itself. This means that once your hearing is damaged or impaired it can’t be restored without the use of hearing devices. However, unlike age-induced hearing loss, noise-induced hearing loss is preventable.
There are 3 main types of hearing loss. When you are seen by an Audiologist for a full diagnostic hearing test your audiologist will determine whether you have a hearing loss which is:
A conductive hearing loss indicates sound is blocked in the outer or middle ear (this type of hearing loss may be temporary and your audiologist will be able to refer you to appropriate channels to possibly help improve the hearing). A sensorineural hearing loss indicates there is damage to the inner ear hair cells or the hearing nerve. This damage impairs the ability of the nerves to send complete signals to the brain. A mixed hearing loss is a combination of both a conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.
Watch this video about signs of hearing loss.
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