Hearing loss is the third most common physical health problem in the U.S., affecting an estimated 48 million Americans. Despite this, hearing health is commonly overlooked; hearing loss in San Diego patients can be left undiagnosed and untreated for years. Hearing loss has been directly linked to several major health concerns including dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, and anxiety. It’s vital to educate yourself about hearing loss in order to ensure you’re keeping up with your hearing healthcare. This includes seeing an audiologist in the San Diego area for regular hearing exams. Please take a look through this information about hearing loss, and come visit our hearing healthcare providers at California Head & Neck Specialists for a hearing exam.

Types of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss affects people of all ages throughout San Diego and across California. It can be caused by a wide variety of factors, though loud noise exposure and the natural aging process are the most common culprits. Every San Diego hearing loss patient’s condition fits into one of three categories. The kind of hearing loss you have is distinguished by what part of the auditory system has been damaged.

Hearing Loss Types

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive problems result from issues of the outer or middle ear. Conductive hearing loss has many possible causes, including ear infections and wax or fluid buildups. It is usually mild to moderate in degree, though it can become severe and even cause deafness in rare cases. Conductive issues are often treatable with medication or surgery.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

This type of hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear and/or hearing nerve and is often referred to as “nerve deafness.” About 90% of all hearing loss in San Diego patients is caused by sensorineural damage, and impairments caused by aging and noise exposure are included in this category.

Sensorineural hearing loss can occur when the tiny hair cells within the inner ear (cochlea) are damaged. It is usually permanent. Sensorineural problems are most often treated with hearing aids, though other treatment plans such as bone-anchored hearing aids, cochlear implants, and auditory brainstem implants may be recommended in cases of severe hearing loss or profound deafness that can’t be treated using hearing aids.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss results when a person suffers from a combination of conductive and sensorineural problems in both the inner and middle or outer ear. Depending on the severity, cause, and frequency of hearing loss, treatment options may include medication, surgery, and/or hearing aids.

All three types of hearing loss in San Diego patients can occur in one or both ears. When a person’s hearing is impaired in just one ear, it’s called unilateral hearing loss. About 1 in 4 hearing losses are unilateral. When the condition affects both ears, it is bilateral. Bilateral hearing loss is more common, accounting for about 75% of hearing losses. Treatment may differ depending on whether your hearing loss is in one or both ears.

Causes of Hearing Loss

There are many different causes of hearing loss in San Diego residents young and old. It’s important to identify the cause of a hearing loss whenever possible, as it may continue harming your auditory system or point to a more serious underlying health condition. Your audiologist may ask you questions, study your medical history or perform a physical examination in order to help identify the cause of your hearing loss after a diagnosis.

Conductive Hearing Loss Causes

Conductive hearing loss affects the outer or middle ear. The most common causes of conductive hearing loss include middle ear infections, or otitis media, as well as blockages or buildups of wax of fluids. In addition to these possibilities, other causes of hearing loss in San Diego patients include malformations of the ear canal or other structures, allergies, poorly functioning Eustachian tubes, a perforated eardrum, benign tumors, foreign objects in the ear, and otosclerosis, which is a hereditary condition that causes an abnormal bone growth in the middle ear.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss Causes

Sensorineural problems are the cause of most hearing losses in San Diego residents—about 9 in 10 cases of hearing loss are related to problems of the inner ear. There are two common causes of sensorineural impairments: noise exposure and the natural aging process. Additional causes include head trauma, viruses (including measles, mumps, viral meningitis, and rubella), diseases (including autoimmune inner ear disease, Meniere’s disease, bacterial meningitis, syphilis), malformations of the inner ear structures, tumors, and ototoxic medications. There are more than 200 known medications that can harm your hearing, including some antibiotics, painkillers like aspirin, chemotherapy drugs, and many more.

Noise-Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL)

Sudden or prolonged exposure to loud noises is the top cause of hearing loss and the number-one concern amongst San Diego hearing loss professionals. The popularity of earbuds, headphones, and cellphones has caused the incidence of NIHL to skyrocket—especially amongst children, teens, and adults. The good news is that NIHL is entirely preventable. Talk to your ENT doctor or an audiologist at our La Jolla, Carlsbad or Murrieta offices to find out how to protect your ears the right way.

Age-Related Hearing Loss (Presbycusis)

Many seniors develop hearing loss naturally as they age, and there is little to do to prevent this from happening. An estimated 1 in 3 people over 65 has hearing loss, and regular testing is vital to catching the problem early and treating it effectively. Since hearing loss has been linked to depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s, anxiety, and many other health problems, it’s vital to ensure you get your hearing tested regularly, especially for those over 40.