Even the best acoustic engineer envies the human ear. Without batting an eyelid, it can hear a click and playing of a violin.

You can tell clearly whether you hear from your right or left ear; if it’s near or far. The human ear can also clearly differentiate between homonyms like “fear and hear,” “son and sun,” and “steal and steel.” However, from time to time, human beings do suffer from some form of hearing loss.

Some common causes include a buildup of earwax, bone tumor, ear getting filled with water, sudden changes in air pressures, ear infections, etc. Hearing loss also happens when one age. While temporary causes of hearing loss get resolved with the removal of impediments, major hearing loss makes communication with others a difficult proposition.

Types and Symptoms Of Hearing Loss

There are three types of hearing loss:
  • Conductive (involving outer/middle ear)
  • Sensorineural (involving inner ear)
  • Mixed (a combination of 1 & 2)
Some of the common signs and symptoms of hearing loss include:
  • Difficulty in understanding words, especially in a crowd or background noise
  • Muffled speech
  • Trouble hearing consonants
  • Frequently asking people to speak loudly, slowly, and clearly
  • Need to increase the television volume
  • Tending to withdraw from conversations
  • Avoiding some social settings
You can check your hearing by asking someone to whisper in your ear numbers or words. If you still think that problems exist, then a visit to an ENT might be necessary.

Hearing Test – What Does it Involve

If you determine that you have some hearing loss, then medical help is imminent. Your ENT does a thorough medical evaluation.

The doctor starts with a detailed medical history and examination of ears, nose, and throat. Simple hearing tests follow this. Some of the tests for diagnosing hearing loss include:
  • Physical Exam
  • General Screening Tests
  • Tuning Fork Tests
  • App-based Tests
  • Audiogram
In an audiogram, you are seated in a soundproof room with earphones that enable separate testing of each ear. The audiologist plays tones at different frequencies.

The audiologist will ask you to tell the softest sound that you hear at different frequencies (low, mid, and high). People having excellent hearing tend to listen to tones even at 20 decibels or less.

If you have problem hearing tones ranging between 45 to 60 decibels, you are diagnosed as having moderate hearing loss, and hearing difficulties until the tone is increased to 76 to 90 decibels will see you getting diagnosed as having severe hearing loss.

Hearing tones is okay, but one must also be able to listen to words. During the hearing tests, the audiologist plays some taped words at different volumes to check the speech reception threshold. In other words, the lowest decibel level at which one can hear words and repeat half of it.

Finally, the audiologist will check the speech discrimination by playing some homonyms.

Treatment and Prevention Options

Once hearing loss is determined, the doctor advises undergoing appropriate treatment. Some of the treatment options include
  • Removal of blockage (generally wax)
  • Hearing aids
  • Cochlear implants
  • Surgical procedure
Prevention options include:
  • Regular ear testing
  • Appropriate ear protection
  • Avoiding recreational risks like riding snowmobiles, hearing rock concerts, using power tools, etc. frequently.