Facts About Tinnitus and Hearing Impairments[imwb_socialbuzz] By John On August 18, 2011 Under Ringing In Ears
Tinnitus and hearing impairments can occur together because they have similar causes. It is important to know about these conditions because they are more common than we think. At the same time, a lot of people are exposed to environments that increase the likelihood of acquiring these problems.
How do we hear?
Hearing involves a complex process, which takes place at extremely rapid speed. To explain it in simple terms, hearing takes place as sound waves travel through the ear canal and reach the eardrums, which transfers the sound waves to the middle ear bones (ossicles). The ossicles transmit the sound waves to the cochlea. The sound waves disturb the fluid inside the cochlea. The movement of the fluid stimulates the hair cells in the cochlea. These tiny structures lead to the acoustic nerve, which transmit signals from the hair cells to the brain. The brain interprets the signals, and that’s how we hear.
Any disruption in the path of sound waves and signals to the brain results in hearing loss. This disruption is caused by many factors, such as blockage and discontinuities along the hearing pathway. A perforated eardrum, for instance, causes hearing impairment. Fluid in the middle ear due to infection can also cause hearing loss. Nerve damage may also cause hearing loss.
Unlocking the Connection Between Tinnitus and Hearing Impairments
It so happens that many people with tinnitus also suffer from hearing loss. At the same time, many people with hearing loss also suffer from tinnitus or ringing in the ears. Where is this connection coming from? Experts have explained that both are caused by similar factors. Impacted earwax, perforated eardrums, fluid accumulation in the middle ears, noise trauma, and acoustic nerve tumor cause both tinnitus and hearing loss.
There are different explanations why people with hearing loss and tinnitus occur together. In the case of conductive hearing loss, such as one caused by a perforated eardrum, the brain receives less auditory signals. The brain tries to compensate by becoming more sensitive, picking up internal noises. The result is perception of phantom noise.
Death of the hair cells in the cochlea is the cause of sensorineural hearing loss. The tiny structures are too delicate that repeated and prolonged exposure to loud noise slowly destroys them. Damaged hair cells are irreparable, but they fire random signals. The brain picks these random signals as noise or tinnitus. In this case, tinnitus occurs along with hearing impairment and is not necessarily caused primarily by hearing deficit itself.
Most cases of tinnitus and hearing impairments are due to repetitive noise exposure. People who work at noisy environments and those who have a habit of listening to loud music are prone to suffer from hearing impairment and ringing ears at some point in the future.
Available Treatments for Hearing Problems
Treatments depend on the cause. Conductive hearing loss can be corrected by finding out the problem. Impacted earwax can be removed to restore hearing. Eardrum perforation heals on its own, although it can be repaired through a minor surgery. However, there are other hearing disorders, like otosclerosis, which are difficult to treat. Ototsclerosis is one of those conditions that result in progressive conductive hearing impairment.
Sensorineural hearing loss is more challenging to treat successfully. Hearing aids are used in most cases. These devices amplify the sound that enters the ears, helping the person hear better. It has been reported that tinnitus sufferers gain relief by wearing hearing aids. Hearing aids reduce the perception of phantom noise by amplifying external sounds, giving a masking effect to tinnitus. Tinnitus sufferers without hearing loss should not wear hearing aids in most cases. A more appropriate device is a tinnitus masker.
People with severe hearing impairment may not be helped by hearing aids. Cochlear implants are recommended for them. A cochlear implant replaces the function of a dysfunctional cochlea, helping profoundly deaf individuals to hear better.
Should you see your doctor?
People do not go to their doctor until the symptoms of hearing impairment are too obvious to ignore. Regular hearing assessment is important for everyone, even for people without hearing impairment. Hearing should be evaluated once in two or three years for normal individuals. Those with mild hearing loss should be seen by their audiologists or otolaryngologists every year.
Signs of developing hearing loss are decline of hearing, trouble understanding people during conversations, frequent complaint that people are mumbling when they talk, trouble understanding people during telephone conversations, and talking loud. Also, people developing hearing impairment seem to turn everything louder (like the TV or stereo volume). They also say that people seem to talk softly. If you know someone having these issues, advice them to have their hearing assessed. If you experience these problems, you know what to do.
Tinnitus, on the other hand, seldom requires immediate medical attention, but sudden ringing in the ears should be brought to a doctor’s attention. A physician will try to identify what causes ringing in the ears.
Tinnitus and hearing impairments may cause depression and anxiety. Such problems should be seen by an appropriate specialist. This is why patients with hearing loss and tinnitus may need to go to counselors or psychologists.