Sign on door that reads "Hazardous Noise May Cause Hearing Loss - Ear Protection Required"

Source: Flickr.

Hearing loss can occur for a wide variety of reasons. A sudden exposure to loud noises can cause hearing loss just as a virus or the natural aging process can. Certain malformations of the ear canal, fluid buildup from an ear infection, or even allergies can cause temporary hearing loss as well. To treat this condition, both proactive and reactive options are available to restore as much hearing as possible.

How to restore hearing loss requires an understanding of how we actually hear sounds. Here’s what you need to know.

It’s All About the Sound Waves 

Sound travels in waves. Those waves will travel into a person’s ear canal and eventually reach what is called the “ear drum.” The sound waves will cause the ear drum to vibrate and this vibration is then passed along to the bones of the inner ear – the cochlea.

The cochlea is one of the most fascinating components of the human body. Inside this bone structure, which is shaped like a snail, exist thousands of tiny hair cells. The cells turn the vibrations from the ear drum into electrical signals that are sent through the nervous system to the brain. The brain then interprets these sounds and lets you know what you’re actually hearing.

Any breakdown in this process can cause hearing loss. Exposing those hair cells to loud noises can cause them to die, which means you will be unable to hear that specific frequency for the rest of your life without an artificial assist. Once these hair cells in the cochlea die, they never grow back, that’s why protecting them is so important.

There Are 3 Types of Hearing Loss 

Hearing loss is broken down into 3 different categories: sensorineural, conductive, or hybrid. Most people who suffer some form of hearing loss have sensorineural loss. This type is caused by an exposure to loud noises, disease, the natural aging process, tumors, or even otosclerosis.

Congenital hearing loss can sometimes be caused by the same issues that cause sensorineural hearing loss. Infections, fluid build-up, earwax hardening, or a birth defect are all common causes of this type of hearing loss. The difference is that this type of loss is caused by a changing of the ear canal structure instead of a loss of the hair cells that send electrical signals to the brain.

Hybrid hearing loss is a combination of both sensorineural and congenital causes that work together to create difficulty in receiving and/or interpreting sound waves.

How to Treat Hearing Loss 

Some hearing loss is considered to be temporary. This is because there is an underlying condition that is affecting a person’s hearing, but the actual structure of the ear components remains unaffected. If there is fluid buildup affecting the structure of the ear canal, for example, a removal of that fluid will cause the ear canal to return to its appropriate structure and this will restore a person’s hearing.

Many forms of hearing loss are irreversible, unfortunately, but that doesn’t mean someone is completely unable to hear things. A hearing aid, for example, can help people hear someone talking and interpret ambient noises rather effectively. In difficult cases, a cochlear implant can replicate some of the electrical impulses to the brain that the natural hair cells are unable to provide someone.

Hybrid hearing loss can be particularly challenging to treat because there are at least two root conditions, which must be addressed. Although many people can have at least a partial restoration in this instance, completely positive results can be difficult to achieve.

For those who still have their hearing now is the time to take proactive actions to preserve that hearing for as long as possible. Hearing protection comes in many different forms to prevent loud noises from damaging those hair cells. Any noise exposure above 85 dB can begin to cause damage after a specific amount of time. At the 120 dB level, that damage can begin to occur in just minutes.

That’s why having earplugs or earmuffs that effectively protect your hearing in a noisy environment is a solid investment to make.

Once your hearing goes away, nothing is the same. Artificial hearing can restore some of what you have lost, but it isn’t a direct replacement of the natural interpretation of sound waves the human body is designed to provide. Invest in this protection today so that all of your tomorrows can be filled with the joyful noises you love so much.