Hearing is one of the most important of the five senses. Hearing helps us communicate with those around us, enjoy music, and live a generally higher quality of life. Without adequate hearing, engaging in ordinary actions and completing ordinary tasks can become much more difficult.
There are quite a few things that the average person can do in order to improve their current state of hearing. In some cases, a simple ear cleaning may be all that is necessary. In other cases, trying hearing aids or receiving more advanced treatments may be what works best for you.
If you have recently begun to experience hearing loss, it will be important to be proactive and identify why your hearing has declined. There are seemingly countless different things that can cause you to have difficulty hearing and, as you might expect, it will be crucial to make sure you are getting the specific hearing treatment(s) you need.
Your audiologist—which can be found at an individual clinic or various types of hearing centers—can help you identify the hearing issues that are currently affecting you. In this article, we will discuss seven of the possible reasons you may be having difficulties hearing. The sooner you are able to identify the issue, the easier it will be to improve your ability to hear.
Tinnitus is an incredibly common hearing disorder that can make it very difficult to properly hear the world around you. Although some people suffering from tinnitus (which is a symptom, rather than a disease) will describe their ears as “feeling clogged”, tinnitus is distinguished as a ringing, buzzing, or rattling sound in the ear (even when there is no source of sound present).
Tinnitus can be triggered by exposure to loud noises, age, certain viruses, medications, changes in hearing and/or changes in life. A stressful event is one of the most common denominators among patients with sudden onset tinnitus. Some instances of tinnitus will simply be annoying, while others will be unbearable. Fortunately, today’s top audiologists and hearing centers offer several different tinnitus treatments. Treatments can range from Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT), hearing aids and sound therapy, to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), counseling, and medication. Because tinnitus is connected to many other hearing problems, some audiologists make tinnitus treatment their primary focus. Often times, a multi-disciplinary team will be recommended for more severe cases of tinnitus.
2. Age-Related Hearing Loss
With each passing year, the average person loses about 0.5 percent of their hearing ability. This means that, on average, a person who is 80 years old can only hear about 74 percent of what a 20-year-old would hear. While the exact rate of decline will vary by individual, it is clear that age-related hearing loss is something that affects just about everybody.
Age-related hearing loss can cause it to sound as if your ear is “stuffed up” or “clogged up”, but because the onset is relatively gradual, many people do not even realize their hearing has begun to decline. Depending on your age, health, and general ability to hear, hearing aids may be recommended. If you feel your hearing has been declining at a concerning rate, visiting an audiologist for a hearing evaluation will certainly be a good idea. If you have not had your hearing tested since childhood and you are over the age of 45, you should get a baseline hearing check now.
3. Excessive Earwax
One of the more common reasons for sudden hearing loss is impacted earwax. With impacted earwax, your ears will feel as if they are clogged since you have something physically in your ear inhibiting your ability to hear. While creating earwax (also known as cerumen) is a very natural and necessary process, it is not uncommon for there to be an excessive amount of earwax in the ear.
Impacted earwax can be caused by many different things, including genetics, improper cleaning habits, certain medical conditions, and various others. Usually, earwax is something that can be eliminated at home with a wax removal kit bought at your local pharmacy. Some patients need to be seen by the PCP every four months to have wax removed in-office. However, in the most severe cases of excessive earwax, scheduling a cleaning with an audiologist may be necessary. Your audiologist may also be able to give advice about preventing buildup in the future.
4. Hyperacusis + Recruitment
Hyperacusis has been described by Web MD as a “hearing disorder that makes it hard to deal with everyday sounds.” Individuals suffering from hyperacusis may perceive ordinary sounds (running water, traffic, ordinary household noises like a dishwasher, etc.) as being too loud, while loud noises “can cause pain and discomfort.”
Hyperacusis is relatively rare and may affect as few as 1 in every 50,000 people. Because hyperacusis almost always occurs alongside tinnitus, similar strategies (such as the use of sound therapy) may be used throughout the course of treatment. Hyperacusis can usually be identified through the administration of various sound tests, though your audiologist will likely ask some questions about your hearing experiences as well.
Recruitment, or abnormal reactions to moderately loud levels of sound, often occurs with hearing loss. This is the result of the damaged ear becoming more sensitive to sudden changes in loudness. Similar to how a weakened muscle hurts after physical therapy, recruitment can be properly dealt with using today’s advanced digital hearing technology.
5. Physical Ear Damage
As you might expect, any direct physical damage to your ears can create immediate (and potentially long-lasting) hearing problems. Indirect injuries, such as head trauma, can also impact your body’s ability to receive and process external sounds. For these types of injuries, scheduling an appointment with an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor will be your best course of action. A perforated eardrum, blood coming from the ear canal, sudden loss of hearing, vertigo, and ear pain are all good reasons to see an otolaryngologist (ENT).
6. Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Individuals who have worked in “noisy” industries are significantly more likely to develop permanent hearing issues. If you have worked in construction, entertainment, aviation, or manufacturing injuries, you are statistically more likely to develop hearing issues than other people your age. Events such as car accidents, exposure to fireworks, and other related noises can also result in ear damage. Unfortunately, using earplugs alone will not protect our hearing 100% from damage. Although hearing protection devices (HPDs) are necessary and encouraged for many people, they cannot prevent all types of damage that are possible with intense exposure over 90 dBHL.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL) is caused by physical damage to either the nerves within the ear or the inner ear itself. It is a serious type of hearing loss that, in most cases, is permanent. Individuals experiencing SNHL will likely hear many sounds as muffled. While the sensory hairs within the ear cannot be replaced, hearing aids and sound therapy may be effective.
7. Swimmer’s Ear
Swimmer’s ear, which is also known as otitis externa, is a very common ear infection that is usually caused by water getting trapped in the ear. Swimmer’s ear can make people feel as if their ear is constantly clogged and can also be quite painful. Itching, redness, and external drainage are also quite common.
In most cases, swimmer’s ear can be treated with antibiotic ear drops. However, when left untreated, swimmer’s ear can worsen and cause various other ear problems. Rather than hoping that swimmer’s ear will resolve itself on its own—it is better to be proactive and seek treatment early on. Visiting your PCP is a smart course of action.
Conclusion – Common Types of Hearing Disorders
There are a variety of reasons you may be having trouble hearing. These disorders often overlap with one another and can make your ability to hear even worse. If you have had trouble hearing for multiple days in a row, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately. Consider scheduling an appointment with an audiologist or hearing center to obtain proper diagnosis and treatment. If there is not a simple explanation for the sudden loss of hearing (i.e. earwax), your audiologist will need to send you to an ENT for further medical management.
Sound Relief Hearing Center specializes in the treatment of tinnitus, hearing loss, hyperacusis, misophonia, and other hearing issues. For more information, or to setup a hearing evaluation, visit our website or call (720) 259-9962 today.