How Hearing Works in the Ear
Before we get into what exactly mild hearing loss is, it’s a good idea to have a basic understanding of how hearing works. Our hearing works by transmitting sound waves from our environment to our brain. These sound waves travel from our outer ear to our middle ear, then from the inner ear to our brain.
The cochlea is a spiral-shaped organ in the inner ear. It contains auditory cells with tiny hair bundles known as stereocilia. These auditory cells convert sound wave vibrations into neural signals that get sent to the brain so that they can be interpreted as meaningful sound.
This auditory process is very complex and any damage to this system can cause various types of hearing loss.
What is Mild Hearing Loss?
Now that we have a better understanding of how hearing works in the ear, we can discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatments for mild hearing loss. Professionals would classify any hearing ranges between 25-40 dB to be a mild hearing loss. Mild hearing loss is defined by being unable to hear sounds that are quieter than about 15 decibels (dB) for children and 25 dB for adults. These sounds include whispered conversations, feet shuffling on floors, leaves rustling, or dripping water. Patients who have mild hearing loss may have trouble with both low and high-frequency sounds, although most people tend to stop hearing high-frequency sounds first. This type of hearing loss can also impact one or both ears and may fall under the condition of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss.
What Causes Mild Hearing Loss?
There are various reasons that cause this type of hearing loss. However, in some cases, if it is diagnosed and treated properly, the patient’s hearing may be restored. Some of these causes include:
- Noise exposure and aging are two of the most common causes
- Ear infection. If you are experiencing an earache, especially one that follows a discharge and fever, immediately see a medical professional.
- Head trauma
- Punctured ear drum. Poking your eardrum with an object like a cotton swab or loud blasts of noise can cause your eardrum to rupture.
- Build up of ear wax or fluids (clogged ear). If ear wax may be the cause for your mild hearing loss, consider using an over-the-counter solution like Debrox or Odinell, which are available to purchase at most drugstores.
Mild Hearing Loss Symptoms
People diagnosed with this type of hearing loss normally report that they are able to hear, but have difficulty understanding conversations clearly. Symptoms of this type of hearing loss may include:
- Needing to increase the volume of the TV
- Muffling of speech and other sounds
- Trouble understanding every word, especially in a crowd or against background noise
- Difficulty hearing consonants, like “S” or “F”
- Often asking others to speak more slowly, clearly, and loudly
- Withdrawing from conversations or avoiding some social settings
This does not replace formal diagnosis conducted by your doctor. If you have any signs of hearing loss, please get tested by a healthcare professional.
How Can We Prevent Mild Hearing Loss?
To prevent this type of hearing loss, don’t wait until you start to notice and show signs of it. Make sure to have a regular checkup with your doctor, so they can evaluate and assess which sound you can and cannot hear. Your doctor may refer you to an audiologist if you have a history of exposure to loud sounds, have trouble hearing and comprehending your friends or family, or feel like your hearing has changed.
Some other methods to prevent mild hearing loss include:
- Foam earplugs
- Filtered earplugs
- In-ear monitors
- Percussive filters
How Can We Treat Mild Hearing Loss?
Depending on the severity and cause of your mild hearing loss, there are different types of treatments available. Some options may include:
- Removing the buildup of earwax
- Surgical procedures
- Hearing aids
- Cochlear implants
Other non-medical solutions on the market aim to help individuals suffering. They include web and mobile application based platforms for speech perception, recognition, audio training, and sound therapies that offer complementary solutions to provide relief and support.
As previously mentioned, the signs and symptoms listed here do not replace formal audiometry conducted by your doctor. Be sure to have your hearing tested regularly with a hearing healthcare professional. Together, you can develop an individualized plan to prevent, protect, and better manage your hearing health.
AudioCardio is a technology company focused on hearing health and wellness. Learn how AudioCardio can help maintain and strengthen your hearing with your favorite headphones or hearing aids at www.audiocardio.com.