More than 50 million Americans experience some type of hearing loss, yet only 1 in 5 uses a hearing device. Hearing loss becomes increasingly common with age, although growing older isn’t the only reason that people experience a loss in hearing.
The audiology team at The University of Kansas Health System specializes in treating all types of hearing loss. As an academic medical center, we can connect you with the latest treatment options through clinical trials. With the right support, your hearing loss doesn’t need to limit your daily life.
What is hearing loss?
Sensorineural hearing loss, or "nerve deafness," is among the most common afflictions of the ear causing hearing loss. Nerve deafness is a bit of a misleading name, as doctors are frequently unable to tell whether the hearing loss is due to nerve disorder or sensory cell disorder.
The damage in nerve deafness is actually either in the nerve leading to the brain itself or the cells deep within the inner ear. In most cases, doctors are not able to tell which element is damaged, which is why we use the term sensorineural hearing loss.
Types of hearing loss
Hearing loss doctors categorize loss of hearing into 3 types:
Hearing loss symptoms and risks
Symptoms of hearing loss include:
- Misunderstanding conversation
- Needing to ask people to repeat words
- Poor hearing performance in noisy backgrounds
- Poor speech clarity or the perception of mumbling by others
- Turning the TV on too loud for others
These symptoms arise based on the type of hearing loss present. Typically, those with hearing loss hear worst in the high-frequency (treble) end of hearing while the low-frequency hearing is normal or nearly so. In English, the vowels (A,E,I,O,U) are low-frequency sounds while the consonants, the main information, are high-frequency sounds.
In normal conversation, a person with a standard nerve hearing loss will only get part of each word, missing the consonants that contain the information. To the affected person, normal speech sounds muffled or like the speaker is mumbling.
There is also a problem with loudness of sounds such that the range of comfortable listening from just barely hearing to painfully loud is contracted. Merely raising voice volume may not help much at all, as the sound quickly becomes so loud as to produce pain.
Individuals experiencing this kind of hearing loss also frequently have problems with the portion of the brain (and/or ear) that translates sounds heard into language.
The hearing level and discrimination of sounds as well as other aspects of hearing are measured when you have a hearing test.
Hearing loss diagnosis and screening
Taking a hearing test is the simplest way doctors can diagnose hearing loss. During a hearing test, doctors will check your hearing response to:
- Different noise environments
- High and low pitches
- Soft and loud volume
- Speech and word recognition
- Tuning fork tests
Your hearing loss doctors may also check your ear drum movement and your middle ear muscle reflex (MEMR) response to loud sounds.
Hearing loss treatment
Nerve deafness is treated with hearing aids if it causes problems with social interactions. The type of interactions will influence the type of hearing aids required. For example, the type of hearing aid would differ for a public speaker as compared to a person who mainly interacts in small groups.
Whatever type of hearing aid is selected, it is designed specifically for the type and degree of hearing loss present, much like a pair of eyeglasses. The fitting is done by an audiologist, a professional with graduate school training and specific education dealing with hearing aids. At The University of Kansas Health System, our audiologists are licensed by the state of Kansas and certified by the American Speech and Hearing Association.