Ever wonder if you’re saying “huh?” too much? Hearing loss is the partial or total inability to hear in one or both ears, and it has different causes. With the World Health Organisation estimating that half of hearing loss cases are avoidable, it’s important to know what different types of hearing loss can occur and if they’re preventable, curable or treatable. Here are the four main types of hearing loss, how they occur and how to prevent them.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
The most common type of permanent hearing loss is sensorineural hearing loss. It occurs because of damage to or malfunction of the hair cells in the inner ear or nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain. It is caused by aging and genetics and illness, but can also be caused by head trauma and damage caused by prolonged exposure to loud noise (over the safe level of 85 decibels). 15 or more minutes of exposure to noise above 100 decibels can cause permanent damage. Some medications can also cause damage to certain individuals. Assistive technologies such as hearing aids are used to reduce the effects of sensorineural hearing loss.
Avoiding noise at work is important, and when you can’t avoid the source of noise or move further away from it, make sure to wear hearing protection and take breaks. Certain jobs, such as farming, manufacturing, construction and transportation can be louder than others. Listening to music to drown out annoying noise – such as construction – is a bad idea because it only causes more damage. Noise cancelling headphones can be very helpful provided you combine their use with other appropriate safety measures. Click for more info.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss is either temporary or permanent. Damage to the outer or middle ear prevents certain sound frequencies from being picked up and heard. Blockages of the outer or middle ear, such as infections, wax build-up or scaring can be a cause, so keep your ears clean! Technologies and medical interventions are used to treat conductive hearing loss.
Mixed Hearing Loss
When both sensorineural and conductive causes are combined it’s called mixed hearing loss. Serious trauma to the ear and prolonged conductive hearing loss can lead to the onset of mixed hearing loss, meaning that what may have been temporary conductive hearing loss can turn into permanent sensorineural loss. Limiting prolonged noise and maintaining good ear hygiene may help you avoid this.
When there is a problem transmitting the nerve signal from the cochlea to the brain, Auditory Neuropathy occurs, leading to varied levels of hearing loss which may be temporary or permanent. Certain neurological conditions and lack of oxygen or jaundice at birth can cause it, and there is little that can be done to prevent its onset. Assistive technologies are used to reduce its effects.
Don’t be intimidated: be proactive in preventing what you can. If you think you may already have damage, see a hearing professional for a diagnosis.
Zara Lambert is a worker’s compensation analyst who shares her thoughts as well as some tips on what to do if your job is causing you health concerns.
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