Hearing Care Services
At General ENT, we strive to provide our patients with the best diagnostic care for their hearing and balance issues. Our audiologists search for high-quality treatment options for each individual patient and customize treatment specifically for their needs. Every effort is made to provide a personal touch and work as a medical team with the physicians of General ENT.
Hearing Loss Facts
- > 31 million people in the U.S. are affected by hearing loss to some degree
- 65% of people with hearing loss are < 65 years old
- 1 in 8 people > 50 years old have hearing loss in the U.S.
- Diabetes doubles the risk of hearing loss
- Billion dollars are lost each year by workers in the U.S. who ignore their hearing loss; hearing aids could cut that in half
How We Hear
The structure of the outer ear first catches sound waves and directs them into the ear canal. Sound waves then travel down the ear canal to the eardrum (a.k.a tympanic membrane). These sound waves vibrate the eardrum which then causes the three tiny bones in the middle ear to vibrate. One of the main structures in the middle ear is called the cochlea. Inside the cochlea, vibrations are turned into electrical impulses and travel to the brain via the auditory nerve. Our brains then interpret the impulses and help us understand what we hear.
Types of Hearing Loss
- Conductive Hearing Loss – occurs when there is something blocking sound waves from reaching the middle ear. Ex. earwax. This type of hearing loss is often reversible once the infection or blockage is cleared or if surgery is performed.
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SHL)– occurs when sound waves are not transmitted into electrical impulses in the cochlea. Ex. trauma from excessive exposure to loud noises.
- Central Hearing Loss – occurs when the auditory nerve does not communicate effectively with the brain or there is a problem with the brain itself. Ex. brain tumors and effects from a stroke.
- Mixed Hearing Loss – those with mixed hearing loss typically have a combination of SHL and semi permanent conductive hearing loss. Hearing may improve after the conductive portion of the hearing loss is resolved through treatment or surgery. SHL, however, is usually permanent.
Causes of Hearing Loss
- Impacted earwax
- Noise Exposure
- Head Injury
Signs of Hearing Loss
- Do you have a hard time hearing people on the phone?
- Is it difficult for you to partake in a conversation within a large group or with noise in the background?
- Do others complain that you have the T.V. on too loud?
- Do you have a hard time hearing high pitched sounds like the doorbell or phone ring?
- Do you sometimes hear things incorrectly and respond inappropriately?
- Are you frequently asking people to repeat themselves?
- Do you have constant or frequent ringing or buzzing noises in your ears (a.k.a. tinnitus, which can also occur with or without a hearing loss.)
Consequences of Hearing Loss
The effects of untreated hearing loss go far beyond just not hearing well.
Those with untreated hearing loss are more likely to be:
- socially isolated
- feel alone
- more likely to develop dementia
- self-conscious and low self-esteem
Hearing Aid Treatment
At General ENT, we care about the overall well-being of our patients and we know that treating hearing loss can dramatically improve quality of life.
Benefits of Hearing Aids
- Improved social, academic, and professional relationships
- Improved self-confidence
- Enhanced personal relationships
- Reduced risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
- Decreased social isolation
- Improved mental health
When it comes to our ability to communicate with others, hearing is our most important sense. Even minimal hearing loss can significantly interfere with and diminish how we interact and connect with others. Don’t delay in getting your hearing checked and treated. Schedule your consultation at our General ENT today.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I prevent hearing loss?
By protecting your ears! If you cannot avoid noise levels greater than 85 decibels on a regular basis, wear hearing protection. Hearing protection is recommended while hunting, attending concerts and sporting events, and playing music. We can provide custom earplugs and other forms of protection. Ask our staff to learn more.
What happens if I don’t treat my hearing loss?
Of course, everyone is different but it is well-documented that there is a relationship between hearing loss and dementia. Evidence suggests that hearing loss accelerates the deterioration of areas of the brain that the auditory nerves would normally stimulate. Those with even mild hearing loss are 3x as likely to have a fall which can have its own consequences. Hearing loss has also been linked to an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other cardiovascular conditions.
What should I do if I suddenly lose my hearing?
Call us or your primary care provider (PCP) immediately. Sudden hearing loss is considered a medical emergency. Sudden hearing loss typically resolves on its own within two weeks, but it might not — meaning your hearing might be gone for good. Seeking medical assistance within 72 hours of the onset of sudden hearing loss greatly improves the chances that your hearing will recover.
How Loud Is Too Loud?
If you have to yell to be heard over music or noise, it’s probably too loud and could be damaging to your hearing if you’re exposed to it on a regular basis. If you are regularly exposed to noises of 85 decibels or more you should have your hearing tested regularly to catch any signs of hearing loss early.
If you face continuous loud-noise exposure on a regular basis, contact us for testing and advice on the latest hearing-protection methods that best suit your needs, or schedule an appointment to be fit for custom hearing protection.
How do I protect my hearing?
Earplugs that seal in tightly and fit snugly in your ear canal can offer protection for a variety of situations. Here at General ENT, we can create custom hearing protection that will protect your ears from harmful noise levels whether on the job or during your leisure activities.
The Hearing Evaluation
We know that hearing impairment affects more than just your ability to hear; it affects your quality of life, relationships, and daily activities. Here at General ENT we stress the importance of an accurate hearing evaluation.
A hearing evaluation is just the beginning and it’s essential to identify the source and degree of your hearing loss. An in-depth hearing evaluation will help the audiology team at General ENT develop a unique treatment plan to restore your hearing and live your best life.
Starting with a brief interview, our audiologists will seek to identify the origin and extent of your hearing impairment. Common questions you’ll be asked include:
- Are you or have you been exposed to loud noises on a daily or frequent basis?
- Do you know if you had any illnesses or injuries that affected your hearing?
- Do you take any medications that damaged your hearing?
- Do you have any family members with hearing problems?
The Hearing Exam
The Doctors of Audiology at General ENT will closely examine the inside of your ear and determine whether the hearing difficulty you are experiencing could be caused by an obstruction like earwax or damage to the ear canal or eardrum. An instrument called an otoscope or video otoscope is often used to inspect the ear.
Next, the nature and degree of hearing loss need to be identified. Hearing test methods often include:
- A screening to measure your hearing at different frequencies
- A speech assessment that measures how well you hear and understand a typical conversation at various volumes
- An evaluation of your middle ear and how your eardrum and hearing react to varying degrees of air pressure
If a hearing impairment is identified, the results will be documented on an audiogram. An audiogram is created after taking a pure-tone hearing test. It then maps out the type, degree, and configuration of your hearing loss. The audiogram will show the degree of hearing loss by frequency, as the pitch and loudness of sounds change.
Frequencies are measured in hertz (Hz), and the loudness or intensity is measured in decibels (dB). The audiologists at General ENT will determine whether you have trouble hearing low or high pitches and what that means moving forward.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does a hearing test take?
It depends on which test is being done and if more than one is needed. Most hearing tests take 30-60 minutes.
How often should I get my hearing tested?
This depends on lifestyle as well as age. Typically, we recommend an annual hearing test, whether there are signs of hearing loss or not, particularly if you are exposed to noise consistently through work or play. If you are exhibiting signs and symptoms of hearing loss, please call today to schedule an appointment.