How Hearing Loss Affects Communication
Not all hearing loss is equal. While the end result may be a diminished ability to process sound, the way it affects an individual’s ability to communicate is not necessarily the same. We hear with our brains, not our ears, and the way an individual’s brain processes and interprets the sounds in their environments is unique. The type of hearing loss — or where damage to the auditory system has occurred — can determine the resulting communication difficulties.
Different Types of Hearing Loss
Many people who have lived first hand with hearing loss may not be aware of the vast difference between other people and their own experiences. Hearing loss has a wide variety of causes and manifestations. Onset can be sudden or gradual. The loss can occur in one ear or both ears. The effect can be temporary or permanent. There can be underlying medical issues or more common age-related changes.
ENT Audiology Center and ENT Specialists of Abilene can diagnose, effectively treat and manage most hearing loss issues. With any suspected hearing loss issue, it is important to seek professional help from an audiologist to effectively diagnose and treat the condition. The earlier a hearing issue can be treated, the better long term outcomes for communication can be expected.
Most cases of hearing loss can be classified as Sensorineural or Conductive. And while each case is unique, some generalizations can be made in diagnosis and treatment based on these two categories.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is due to problems of the inner ear or the auditory nerve. Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) can be a function of the normal aging process, noise exposure or as a result of another medical condition. This permanent type of hearing loss accounts for majority of patients who use hearing aids.
When dealing with a SNHL we must look at two components: the severity of the loss across the spectrum of sound and how that loss affects a patient’s communication. Essentially, this means that patients suffering from SNHL may have trouble with only certain kinds of sounds – like high pitched sounds, for example – and this may inhibit the way the patient is able to communicate. These two aspects do not always affect the patient in a predictable pattern, meaning no two patients are exactly the same.
Even if SNHL remains stable over many years, speech comprehension can decline as a result of lack of stimulation. In other words, if the patient cannot hear certain aspects of speech, their ability to process and comprehend speech will decline over time. It is for this reason that pursuing hearing health options is always advocated as a “sooner, rather than later” healthcare option.
Conductive Hearing Loss
This type of hearing loss that is due to a functional abnormality that does not allow normal sound transmission to the inner ear. Common causes of conductive hearing loss include: Cerumen (Ear Wax) blockage, fluid buildup in the middle ear space (possible ear infection), perforation of the ear drum or abnormality/defect with the bones of the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss (CHL), in many cases, is treatable by medical or surgical intervention.
When CHL cannot be medically treated or shows to be a chronic issue, hearing help is often a treatment option. Unlike SNHL, there is no permanent damage to the inner ear or hearing nerve. Because the inner ear/nerve is intact, patients with CHL often have an easier transition to amplification. The system can process sound in a more normal process once the functional abnormality has been identified and corrected. In other words, CHL is more of a “volume” rather than a “processing” issue.
If you or a loved one have noticed increased difficulties in communication or a reduction in hearing, Call ENT Audiology Center at (325) 437-3617 to set up your comprehensive hearing evaluation. ENT Audiology Center, “Helping You Hear Better So You Can Live Life Better”.
For more information visit ENTAudiologyCenter.com