October is National Audiology Awareness Month and hearing professionals are urging the public to learn more about hearing loss and ways to protect our hearing.
What causes hearing loss?
It is estimated that about 14.3 percent or 38.2 million Americans suffer from some degree of hearing loss.
Hearing loss can be caused by a lot of different things, including:
Damage to the inner ear. Constant exposure to loud noise and aging may eventually lead to the wear and tear on the hairs or nerve cells in the inner ear or cochlea. The cochlea is the spiral cavity that contains the organ Corti, which is responsible for producing nerve impulses in response to vibrations.
The buildup of earwax. The earwax has a vital role to play in the ear. It is produced by the ear to clean and protect itself. However, when there’s too much buildup of earwax, it may also get into the way of hearing.
Too much earwax can block the ear canal and block the sound waves.
Infection, constant poking of your eardrum with an object, loud blast of noise, and sudden pressure can cause a rupture in your eardrum and cause hearing loss.
What are the signs to watch out for?
If you’re experiencing any of the following, you should see a hearing specialist immediately:
- Difficulty understanding words especially in a crowd or with a background noise
- Constantly asking others to speak more slowly and clearly
- Needing to turn up volume of TV or radio
- Muffling of speech
- Withdrawal from conversations
Can hearing loss be prevented?
There are ways to prevent noise-induced hearing loss and keep age-related hearing loss from getting worse.
Try to limit your exposure to loud noise. If this can’t be avoided (i.e. if there’s constant noise in your workplace), protect your ears by using hearing protectors such as plastic earplugs or glycerin-filled earmuffs.
You may also want to consider having your hearing tested. This can help in the early detection of hearing loss and taking steps to keep it from progressing.
If you think you might have hearing loss, Greater Knoxville ENT offers an online hearing screener that lasts only three minutes. All you will need is a set of headphones to get started. Visit https://hearing-screener.beyondhearing.org/GKENTAudiology/uVS08P/welcome to take the online hearing screener. Call (865) 244-4396 to request an appointment.