Hearing is one of our most important senses, especially when it comes to communication. We depend on our hearing abilities to create and maintain relationships, as a security measure, and simply to enjoy life.

Hearing deficiencies are more common than we think and contrary to what most of us think, hearing loss is not necessarily related to aging. In fact, about 34% of hearing loss is due to noise exposure, 28% only is due to aging, 17% to infection or injury, and 4% to genetics. There are many solutions to hearing loss, including hearing aids.

Because of the stereotypes associated with wearing a hearing aid, people often want to put it off as long as possible. The longer it is put off, the harder the adaptation process will be. The longer we let our brain adjust to the hearing loss, the harder it will be to convince it to adjust to the hearing aid.

Hearing loss can be divided into these categories

Conductive hearing loss

Happens when sounds are not transmitted correctly through the outer and middle ear. Some conductives hearing losses can be helped by wearing hearing aids, but some can be resolved by medical or surgical treatment, as recommended by an Ear-Nose-and-Throat (ENT) doctor. Common causes of conductive hearing loss are ear infection, otosclerosis, fluid build-up in the middle ear from allergies or colds, Eustachian tube dysfunction, perforated eardrum, earwax buildup or some malformation of the outer or middle ear.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Happens when sounds are not transmitted correctly through the cochlea of the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing losses usually cannot be resolved by surgical treatment, but most of the time, can be helped by wearing hearing aids. Common causes of SNHL are presbycusis (age-related HL), noise exposure, premature birth or other complications at birth.

Sudden hearing loss

If you notice a sudden important drop in your hearing, you should contact your family physician for an emergency consultation. If it is not possible to see your family physician, it is a good idea to go straight to the emergency room. If caught within a few hours to a few days, Sudden sensorineural HL may be treated. If caught in time, it may be reversible. If it is a conductive issue, such drastic measures may not be necessary, but an eventual consultation with an audiologist and/or ENT doctor is a good idea.

Mixed hearing loss

Happens when there is a combination of conductive and sensorineural HL.

Examples of other hearing losses are retrocochlear disorder (problem along the central auditory system), auditory neuropathy (problem along the hearing nerve), central processing disorder (problem related to treatment of information, but hearing may be normal). In these cases, additional tests may be recommended.