Q&A About Hearing Loss

Q&A About Hearing Loss

Robert Weissman, Au.D., B.C.A., CCC-AUncategorized

Robert Weissman, Au.D., B.C.A., CCC-A

Hearing loss affects about 48 million Americans, and it’s not going away any time soon. In fact, it affects everyone who lives long enough. Scientists are not sure why, though research is ongoing into the genetic components of hearing loss and possible future cures.

Where once hearing loss was considered an annoying but relatively benign aspect of getting older, we now know better. Hearing loss tends to spark a cascade of negative health outcomes, which is why treating it is so important. Those who are new to hearing loss might have some questions about what it means and what they can expect, so let’s answer some of the common questions that come up with a new hearing loss.

Will My Hearing Loss Get Worse?

Age-related hearing loss, once it begins, does tend to get worse. Fortunately, it usually stabilizes at a certain point and you will probably not go deaf. Recent research has shown that quitting smoking can help slow or prevent the decline of hearing ability. A study at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital also showed that eating an anti-inflammatory diet, such as the Alternate Mediterranean diet (AMED) or Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH), will drastically reduce your likelihood of developing hearing loss.

Your hearing loss should be diagnosed by a qualified hearing healthcare professional. This is the only way to know for sure that age-related hearing loss is the cause of your trouble, and to monitor its progress. As hearing loss progresses, you can lose the ability to comprehend speech due to the atrophy of the auditory cortex in your brain. If you don’t want that to happen, treating hearing loss with hearing aids is the best way to make sure that you can live as a hearing individual in the way you’re used to doing while hearing loss progresses.

Can I Just Get One Hearing Aid?

One hearing aid is better than none, but those who can afford to get two will see much more of a benefit. Our ears help locate us in space, which also assists with our ability to balance. Only using one hearing aid, while it may allow us to get a general sense of what’s going on around us and hear someone talking, takes away our brain’s ability to make use of binaural hearing.

In fact, the two hemispheres of our brain are connected to each of our ears in different ways. Our right ear is better at listening to speech and zeroing in on specific sounds, while our left ear focuses more on music and the ambient environment. It’s kind of like your right ear is better at detail and your left ear is better at making sense of the big picture. We want both of those faculties working their best, don’t we?

Should I Opt for Cochlear Implants?

Cochlear implants are exciting devices that make hearing possible for those who are deaf or have profound hearing loss. They bypass the ear entirely and deliver electrical impulses, like our ears create, directly to the auditory nerve which takes them to the brain.

However, there is not really a “choice” to be made between hearing aids and cochlear implants. The sound provided by cochlear implants is not anywhere near as accurate as our ears produce, and many people who have them still have a difficult time making out speech. If you have the ability to hear with your ears at all, hearing aids are unequivocally the best treatment.

Are There Any Natural Remedies for Hearing Loss?

The short answer is “no.” While an anti-inflammatory diet can help prevent or slow the progress of age-related hearing loss, our hearing ability requires the proper functioning of tiny, hair-like cells called “cilia,” and once these cells are damaged they cannot be repaired. This is why it’s so important to prevent noise-induced hearing loss, the type of hearing loss caused by exposure to loud sound, with the use of earplugs and other safety measures where loud sound is concerned. We may all lose some hearing to age-related hearing loss, but we can take care to limit external damage to our ears.

If you’re concerned that you have hearing loss, make an appointment for a hearing test today and get a professional opinion about what should be done to keep your hearing health in good shape going forward.