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What is hearing loss?

Diana Meeks
Diana Meeks on behalf of Sigma Nursing
Family Practitioner

Hearing loss is a common physical problem among people of all ages. Today about 17 percent (36 million) of American adults report some degree of hearing loss. Older adults may have hearing loss because of degeneration of the nerve tissue in the ear. The medical term for this is presbycusis. Young children may be born with a congenital deformity that causes deafness or hearing loss. Young and middle age adults can have hearing loss from exposure to loud noises or vibrations.

With hearing loss, there may be difficulty in hearing sound levels, difficulty in understanding words, and difficulty in determining the direction of a sound or a combination of these problems. Sometimes hearing loss stabilizes rather than continuing to worsen. While there is no specific medication that is excellent for relief of hearing loss, there are hearing aids, assistive listening devices, and even surgery that can enhance your ability to hear.

Dr. Darius Kohan, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT Specialist)

In an ear with proper hearing, sound vibrations are funneled by the outer ear into the ear canal where they hit the ear drum. These vibrations cause movement of the ear drum that transfers to the three small bones of the middle ear, the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil), and stapes (stirrup). When the stapes bone moves, it sets the inner ear fluids in motion, which, in turn, start the process to stimulate the auditory (hearing) nerve. The hearing nerve then carries sound energy to the brain, resulting in hearing of sound. When any part of this process is compromised, hearing is impaired.

Dr. Eric E. Smouha, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT Specialist)

Hearing loss is more than just a sound barrier - it can negatively impact the quality of life and cause a sense of complete isolation for those who suffer from it. There are approximately 24 million people in the United States who have a significant loss of hearing. Fortunately, there are mechanisms that can improve hearing. People with hearing loss do not have to feel alone.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.