There are many causes for hearing loss. Previous blog posts have discussed disorders of the outer and middle ear that can cause hearing loss. This post will discuss a few reasons hearing loss results from inner ear disorders that occur in the cochlea and beyond.
Presbycusis is the term for hearing loss which develops as a result of aging. This hearing loss typically manifests in the high frequencies first, causing people to feel like speech has become unclear. A frequent complaint associated with presbycusis usually goes like this: “I can hear people speaking, I just can’t understand what they’re saying”. Difficulty hearing in the presence of background noise is also common. Presbycusis results from the gradual atrophy of the hair cells in the cochlea and of the auditory nerve itself.
(Related Article: Cognitive Decline and Hearing Loss)
Presbycusis is the most common type of hearing loss we see here at Hearing HealthCare Centers. Hearing aids are the most effective treatment. It is important to seek help as soon as possible when presbycusis sets in, as some aspects of the auditory system are “use it or lose it” and hearing aids can help keep the auditory nerve and cortex active.
2. Noise damage
Repeated exposure to loud sounds like construction tools, rock concerts, or guns firing will result in hearing loss over time. The hair cells in the cochlea are traumatized by the loud noise and can break down over time. Noise damage results in high-frequency hearing loss, similar to presbycusis, but the hearing test shows a characteristic notch shape in which the hearing is worst around 4000 Hz.
2. Meniere’s Disease
Meniere’s is a progressive disorder of the inner ear. It causes spells of dizziness, low-pitched ringing or roaring sound in the ear and pressure or fullness in the ear. This low-frequency hearing loss fluctuates but eventually becomes permanent. Excessive fluid in certain parts of the inner ear, known as endolymphatic hydrops, is believed to be the cause. There is no cure for Meniere’s, but certain lifestyle modifications can help control the spells. A hearing aid on the affected ear can help minimize the effects of hearing loss for people who develop significant hearing loss as a result of Meniere’s disease.
3. Viral infections and sudden hearing loss
Viral infections of the inner ear can cause acute episodes of dizziness, tinnitus, and hearing loss. Sudden hearing loss usually affects only one ear. About half the time, it resolves on its own. Although many times it leads to a permanent hearing loss in the affected ear. People who experience sudden hearing loss should see an ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor as soon as possible. Steroids are usually administered within the first week or two following a sudden hearing loss. This greatly improves the chances that the hearing will recover.
(Related Article: Disorders of the Outer Ear and Hearing Loss)
4. Acoustic neuroma
Acoustic neuromas are a benign tumor of the cells that form a sheath around the auditory nerve. These tumors are not cancerous, but their effects can be significant. Symptoms include hearing loss and tinnitus in one ear and a decreased ability to understand words in the affected ear. Many experience dizziness, facial numbness and/or tingling too. An MRI is the best way to diagnose an acoustic neuroma. A hearing test can also be remarkably sensitive to even small tumors. Sometimes asymmetric hearing loss is the only symptom!
Any hearing loss should first be addressed by getting a hearing test. If you or your loved ones suspect any inner ear disorders, contact us at Hearing HealthCare Centers. We’d be very happy to help!