Hearing loss affects 38 million people in the United States. Hearing loss can occur at birth or can develop at any age. There have been many advances in all aspects of hearing health care so that from the youngest infant to the eldest senior citizen, there are new and exciting options available to help. Treatment options vary depending on the degree or type of hearing loss, age of onset and individual lifestyle needs. If you suspect that you or a family member has a hearing loss, the best place to start is with a hearing evaluation by a licensed audiologist
A hearing evaluation consists of a number of tests to measure how well you hear. The test results are reported on a form called an audiogram.
There are basically two types of hearing loss:
A conductive hearing loss indicates there is a problem with the mechanism that conducts sound from the environment to the inner ear. Problems in the external auditory canal (outer ear), ear drum or the bones of hearing (the middle ear) may cause a conductive loss. This type of loss can often be corrected by medication or surgery. If it cannot be corrected, the individual can usually do very well with a hearing aid.
A sensorineural hearing loss indicates a problem in the organ of hearing or the nerve of hearing. There may be damage to the cochlea (inner ear), auditory nerve, or the auditory centers of the brain. An individual with a sensorineural hearing loss may benefit from a hearing aid, cochlear implant, communication therapies, other medical management depending on the degree of the loss or the cause of the loss.
Certain medications can cause damage to your hearing or aggravate an existing hearing issue. Hearing problems (such as a hearing loss or ringing in the ear) resulting from ototoxic medications typically occur when the recommended dosage is exceeded. Often these problems are reversible upon discontinuation of the drug. Occasionally there are times when this change in hearing can be permanent.
If you are experiencing a hearing problem, or if there is a hearing disorder in your family, it is imperative that your treating physician and pharmacist be aware of this fact. The Center for Hearing and Communication encourages you to take responsibility in knowing which drugs you should try to avoid.