Hearing damage and hearing loss are becoming more common in both young and old and can have many different causes. Common causes are age, illness, or too much exposure to loud music or other sounds. However, they all lead to the same result: a perceptible decrease in hearing ability.
Just as there are many possible causes of hearing loss, there are also different forms of hearing loss of varying degrees of severity. If you find you are into one or more of the following situations, you may have hearing damage or loss of hearing:
• You hear others hold a conversation, but you have difficulty understanding what is being said.
• You must regularly ask to repeat what has just been said.
• You have trouble figuring out where the sounds come from.
• If you look at your interlocutor, you better understand what is being said that when you are not looking at him.
• Friends and family often tell you that the volume of your TV or radio is too high.
• You do not understand conversations in noisy environments, such as a crowded restaurant or reception.
• You must concentrate to hear distant sound sources, such as in a theatre or church.
• It seems to you that others do not articulate when speaking.
• In conversations, you often feel excluded because you cannot always understand everything.
Different types of hearing loss
To differentiate the different types of hearing loss, one must first understand the two functions of the hearing aid. The first is to transmit the outer sound waves, which is done through the outer ear. The second purpose is to transform these sound waves into messages to the brain which is done through the inner ear.
There are four types of hearing loss:
Deafness of perception (or neuron sensory), the most common form, corresponding to a damage of the ciliated cells of the inner ear. The causes of such loss are varied and numerous, ranging from aging to exposure to loud noises, or to specific diseases, infections, hereditary disorders, prenatal problems, and so on. This type of deafness is usually treated using a hearing aid, depending on its degree of severity.
Transmission deafness, which affects the outer and middle ear as well as the transmission of sound to the inner ear. This can be caused by a pierced eardrum, earwax, ear infection or hereditary factors. Some cases can be treated medically or surgically.
Mixed deafness combines deafness of perception and transmission. Its characteristics also combine those of the two types of deafness: an inability to transmit sounds to the inner ear, in addition to damage to the inner ear or auditory nerve.
Central deafness is the rarest hearing loss. It results from injury or impairment of the central nervous system and can be located in the nerve connections of the brain.
Once the type of hearing loss has been identified, it remains to determine the degree of hearing loss to complete the diagnosis.
Different degrees of hearing loss
All types of deafness are measured during a hearing test during which the specialist analyzes the minimum sound level that his patient perceives that he then compares to the average hearing threshold. The number of decibels lost about the average is then calculated.
We can recognize different degrees of hearing loss, each characterized by an average amount of lost decibels and an inability to hear certain sounds.
- The slight hearing loss corresponding to a loss of 20 to 40 decibels. Individuals have difficulty hearing clearly in noisy environments. Low or moderately loud sounds are hardly noticeable, such as a whispering conversation in play.
- The average hearing loss, corresponding to a loss of 41 to 70 decibels. This level of deafness allows you to hear only noises close to you or strong enough; the understanding is particularly difficult when there are background noises. A hearing aid is strongly recommended at this stage.
- Severe hearing loss, equivalent to a loss of 71 to 90 decibels. This level corresponds to an inability to hear loud conversations or a telephone conversation without a hearing aid.
- Serious or profound hearing loss, diagnosed as early as 91 decibels lost. It is the degree of hearing loss of an adult who has become deaf, for whom only loud noises can be heard, or felt like vibrations.