Sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) is one of the most common types of hearing loss. It occurs when some of the inner ear hair cells (within the cochlea) have become damaged. Sensorineural hearing loss most commonly happens gradually over time, but can also occur suddenly. It can result from aging (presbycusis, also known as age-related hearing loss), exposure to loud noises (anything above 85 decibels can be harmful to your hearing), injury, disease, certain medications (known as ototoxicity), and can even be inherited.
Hearing loss can negatively impact quality of life. It has been associated with cognitive decline, dementia, poor academic performance, social isolation, and depression. Bringing more awareness and support to those with hearing loss and issues of the ear can help reverse the negative social and mental effects hearing loss has on individuals. Learning and relating to others who share similar experiences may also be comforting for individuals struggling for support and a viable solution. Each hearing loss journey is unique, but there are hundreds of millions of individuals that have hearing loss.
Noise-Induced Hearing Loss
“Sound is what we hear when vibrations from the source travel through the air and reach our ears. Noise is sometimes defined as unwanted sound…”
Noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) occurs when loud noise damages the sensitive structures in your inner ear. So, as you can imagine, many musicians, actors, staff and crew in the entertainment industry experience some form of hearing loss.
Mick Fleetwood, a British musician and actor, has suffered from hearing loss since 1989 during his time as a drummer in Fleetwood Mac. He is a promoter of hearing loss prevention and treatment. In 2005, he participated in a “quiet” rock concert, playing a couple of songs without any amplification, where the audience of 100 could listen and adjust the volume from their miniature radio receivers. In addition, he teamed up with the Energizer® EZ Change® hearing aid battery manufacturer to educate young kids, teens and adults about hearing loss through the “It’s Hip to Hear™” program.
Whoopi Goldberg, an American actress, comedian, author, and television personality, attributes her hearing loss and tinnitus to years of listening to loud music. She has low-frequency hearing loss, which makes low-pitched sounds, such as a male’s voice or the vowels “a” and “e” difficult for her to understand. When talking about hearing loss, she has voiced strongly in the management and maintenance of hearing for better health. Hearing protection, early detection and intervention are also critical for better hearing health outcomes.
Hearing Loss Due to Disease
Turner syndrome (TS) is a chronic infection(s) of the middle ear and can cause a series of problems like: cholesteatoma (a cyst-like growth that are not malignant causing imbalance, dizziness, and meningitis if not treated), conductive hearing loss (problems with the Eustachian tube and chronic ear infections), and sensorineural hearing. Turner Syndrome only affects girls and women is a major medical concern when it comes to hearing loss.
“I’ve been to experts at the Mayo Clinic, Massachusetts General, UCSF [University of California, San Francisco]. I’ve tried all sorts of holistic stuff, from acupuncture to chiropractics to cranial massage to supplements and all kinds of herbs. Nothing seems to work. Zero. It’s such a crazy inner-ear disorder. The first six months tormented me. But you can get used to anything.” – Huey Lewis
Huey Lewis, an American singer, suffers from Meniere’s disease, an inner ear disorder that leads to vertigo (dizzy spells), hearing loss, and tinnitus. In 1987, his hearing in his right ear vanished – he lost 80% of his hearing. Then in 2018, a similar thing happened to his left ear, resulting in having to cancel his tour. His hearing loss continues to fluctuate and unfortunately, nothing has worked, yet. His latest Huey Lewis and the News’ album, Weather, only has 7 songs on it due to Lewis’ complications with his hearing loss (having lost his hearing in his right ear), preventing him from performing, recording, and singing. When he wakes up in the morning, he tends to scratch his pillow to see if he can hear it, which tells him if he will have a good or bad hearing day. If it’s a bad hearing day, sounds can become extremely distorted. Fortunately, the band still gets together to test Lewis’ voice, just in case. Though he wears hearing aids, hearing aids alone are not enough to remedy his hearing loss.
Hearing Loss due to Ear Infections
Robert Redford, an American actor, director, and activist, lost 60% of his hearing in his left ear while on set, doing his own stunts, in the Indian Ocean filming “All is Lost” back in 2013. He was constantly submerged into water and blasted with water hoses resulting in an ear infection that led to his hearing loss. He has said that his partial hearing loss was an acceptable risk because of his challenging role. Luckily for him, his hearing loss journey started at the age 77, rather than in his early years. He now relies on hearing aids to help him with his loss.
Lou Ferrigno, an American bodybuilder and actor, most known for starring in The Incredible Hulk television series, lost 85% of his hearing at the age of 4 due to an ear infection. He wore hearing aids for most of his life and was unfortunately made fun of when he was a child, especially since he had the old fashioned hearing aids- the ones that had buttons on the chest. But more recently, at the age of 69, Mr. Ferrigno had cochlear implant surgery to improve the clarity and definition of his hearing. He can now hear the different consonant sounds, like the /s/ sound, and other ambient noises. You can see in a past interview where he tears up because he can now hear again. He has worked hard to regain some clarity in his speech. He also puts in a lot of practice in his hearing therapy and rehabilitation, such as using hearing therapy apps and being patient with the process. He has said it has been life changing and he continues to share his experience to encourage others with his condition and to show that it is okay, especially with all the advanced technology we have nowadays.
Gerard Butler, a Scottish actor, had an ear infection at 10 years old that led to needing surgery. He lost 50% of his hearing in his right ear, has had lifelong tinnitus, and resulted in his right ear being physically deformed and attributed to his unique smile. He mentioned that when he was younger, he looked like he had a stroke since he had a crooked smile due to his hearing loss problems. Though even with those experiences, his hearing loss and tinnitus has not stopped him from performing in films and musicals.
Hearing Loss due to Medications
Ototoxicity is when an individual develops hearing problems due to certain medicines. This can happen when someone is taking high doses of cancer treating drugs or medications to treat infections and other illnesses that are toxic to the ear. There are over 200 over the counter and prescribed medications approved by the FDA and available on the market that can permanently damage your hearing.
Millicent Simmonds, an American actress, permanently lost her hearing before she was 12 months old due to an accidental medication overdose. When she lost her hearing, her mother got her a deaf mentor who would teach the whole family sign language. She can easily communicate with her family and uses American Sign Language with her friends and co-stars. She attended a deaf school for her entire education. She does have a cochlear implant, which slightly helps her. She has become an advocate for the deaf community and an advocate to cast more deaf actors in deaf roles.
Age-Related Hearing Loss
Bill Clinton, the 42nd U.S. president was fitted with a hearing aid in both ears at the age of 51. Age played a factor and so did the exposure to loud noises at political rallies and the use of hunting rifles. He has high-frequency hearing loss, which makes certain consonants like “f,” “h,” and “s” difficult to understand. This can make speech recognition difficult, especially in complex hearing situations, like at restaurants, bars and other louder environments. It makes it especially difficult to understand conversations with children and women due to their higher-pitched voices.
Hearing Loss Due to Injury
Halle Berry, an American actress, has been living with hearing loss due to traumatic brain injury. She is a victim of domestic violence and has had numerous partners who would physically abuse her. Then in 1991, she lost 80% of her hearing in her left ear when a former boyfriend hit her repeatedly in the head. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), concussions for example, can lead to hearing damage since the auditory pathway leads to the brain. She is an advocate for ending domestic violence against women as well for individuals with disabilities.
Help with Your Hearing Loss
Sound therapy is one of a variety of solutions that are offered to patients looking for a product that can assist them with their hearing issues. This method is valued due to its non-invasive approach to a wide assortment of conditions, easy accessibility, and in most cases, low cost. Generally speaking, sound therapy means the use of external noise to alter an individual’s perception or reaction to their ear problems. Like any other treatment for hearing loss and other ear-related issues, sound therapies do not necessarily cure the condition. However, they can significantly lower the burden and intensity of these ear-related issues. Sound therapy is also a great method for managing tinnitus (irritating sounds within the ear without any external sound source) by promoting the reorganization of the cortex and distracting you from the irritating sound of tinnitus.
AudioCardio is a technology company focused on hearing health and wellness. AudioCardio is a mobile app that delivers personalized inaudible sound therapies designed to help maintain and strengthen hearing. Learn more about AudioCardio at www.audiocardio.com.