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Hearing Loss

Causes of Hearing Loss continued...

Sudden hearing loss, the rapid loss of 30 decibels or more of hearing ability, can happen over several hours or days. (A normal conversation is 60 decibels.) In nine out of 10 cases, sudden hearing loss affects only one ear. Though there are about 4,000 new cases of sudden hearing loss a year, the cause can only be found in 10% to 15% of cases.

Certain illnesses, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes, put ears at risk by interfering with the ears' blood supply. Otosclerosis is a bone disease of the middle ear and Ménière's disease affects the inner ear. Both can cause hearing loss.

Trauma, especially that which involves a skull fracture or punctured eardrum, puts ears at serious risk for hearing loss.

Infection or ear waxcan block ear canals and reduce hearing.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

In many cases, hearing fades so slowly, its departure goes unnoticed. You may think that people are mumbling more, your spouse needs to speak up, and the telephone is an inferior communication device. As long as some sound still comes in, you may assume your hearing is fine.

At the early stage of hearing loss, high-pitched sounds, such as children's and female voices, and the sounds "S" and "F" become harder to decipher. Other symptoms of hearing loss include:

  • Trouble understanding phone conversations
  • Trouble hearing above background noise
  • Trouble following a conversation when more than one person speaks at once
  • Perception that people are not speaking clearly or mumbling
  • Often misunderstanding what people say and responding inappropriately
  • Often having to ask people to repeat themselves
  • Frequent complaints by others that the TV is too loud
  • Ringing, roaring, or hissing sounds in the ears, known as tinnitus

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