One of the complaints I get from of my patients is they can’t hear what I’m saying. So I speak up, and they still can’t hear me clearly. Then I know they are one of the twenty-eight million Americans suffering from sudden or gradual hearing loss. This affliction affects adversely their quality of life both at work and at leisure.
Sudden hearing loss occurs through an infection, a trauma, changes in atmospheric pressure, or earwax buildup or impaction. Some cases are reversible with care and treatment.
Gradual hearing loss, called presbycusis, is a culmination of many factors such as environment, drugs, and disease. We cannot reverse gradual hearing loss, but we can take steps to prevent or stop further loss.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Heredity and chronic exposure to loud noise are two contributors to gradual hearing loss in adults. You cannot change your ancestors, but you can change or control your environment. Other, less common, causes are disease or illness from a virus or bacteria, heart condition or stroke. Head injuries and tumors could also be a cause. Side effects from medication, like chemotherapy drugs and some antibiotics, may also bring about hearing loss. Temporary hearing loss can happen if you take high doses of aspirin or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antimalarial drugs or loop diuretics.
Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) is caused by exposure to loud environmental noise at work or play. Nearly one-third of Americans suffering from hearing loss have NIHL. It is, however, preventable with the use of proper safety equipment. Tinnitus, a constant ringing, buzzing, hissing, or roaring sound in your ears is one symptom of NIHL.
Environmental noise can be either continuous or impulse. Examples of continuous noise are a jet engine, a jackhammer, loud music or sirens. Impulse noise is a sudden explosion of sound. Musicians, transit workers -especially airport and railroad employees – farmers, construction workers, and people in the armed forces are all vulnerable to NIHL.
Treating and Living With Hearing Loss
Here are some steps I take to combat hearing loss and improve quality of life for my patients.
Earwax removal is my first action step. I loosen the wax with mineral oil or glycerin then either suction or scoop out the wax. This painless, quick treatment often results in a marked improvement of hearing ability.
If I suspect my patient’s hearing loss comes from a disease, I recommend seeing a specialist. An otolaryngologist can diagnose and prescribe a course of treatment, preventing further damage and in some instances reversing the loss.
When no disease is apparent, I suggest mechanical aids. Hearing aids amplify sound and direct it into your ear canal. There are many unobtrusive hearing aids on the market now. Some fit inside your ear and are barely noticeable. Others rest behind your ear. Try different types to find the one that works best for you. Most states have laws requiring a trial period before you make the final decision on which kind is best for you.
Cochlear implants are for more severe hearing loss. These electronic devices compensate for damaged or nonworking parts of your inner ear.
Preventing Further Hearing Loss
Protect your ears from loud noises. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of wearing ear protection around machinery. Turn down the volume of your music, and place your hands over your ears when a fire truck or ambulance passes by.
Get regular hearing tests. Some hearing loss is treatable and further degradation halted by early detection. An audiologist will measure your hearing ability and give you tools to deal with your loss.
Improve your diet. I have read that adding manganese to your diet may help prevent hearing loss. Good food sources of manganese are mustard greens, kale, chard, collard greens, romaine lettuce, raspberries, pineapple, and maple syrup. Research by the University of Florida suggests that taking vitamin supplements with the antioxidants beta-carotene, vitamins C and E and the mineral magnesium can protect against noise-induced and age-related hearing loss.
The Bottom Line
Loss of hearing happens to too many of us, both young and old. The good news is, because so many Americans, ten percent of the total population, suffer from it there is a thriving industry in place to combat hearing loss. Treatment is constantly improving and hearing aids get smaller and better all the time. The best advice I can give you is to protect your ears at all times, eat a healthy diet and take a good supplement containing manganese, magnesium, beta-carotene, vitamins C and E and you will be able to hear a pin drop for a long time to come.