We recently asked our social media community to submit their questions about hearing health and hearing aids. We received a lot of great questions! We received a lot of great questions! To ensure you receive the best possible answers, we turned to our hearing experts our Audiologist Victoria McLeod and Hearing Instrument Specialist Shaji Matthews to provide their valuable insights.
Keep reading for answers to your questions!
TYPES AND CAUSES OF HEARING LOSS
Q: What is the reason for hearing loss? Is there any treatment that improves hearing?
Victoria McLeod: There are many different reasons for hearing loss. They’re categorized into two major types of hearing loss. You can have a conductive hearing loss which sometimes is medically treatable. A conductive hearing loss can look like maybe you have too much wax in your ear, maybe you have an ear infection that could be treated with medication.
More commonly people have a sensorineural hearing loss which is caused by damage to the inner ear hair cells. Sometimes that damage is caused by noise exposure which is one of the most common causes. It can also be caused by the natural process of aging. Unfortunately, sensorineural hearing loss doesn’t have any treatments to return your hearing back to normal but wearing hearing aids can improve your ability to hear.
Q: What causes natural degenerative hearing loss?
Victoria McLeod: Natural degenerative hearing loss is simply a function of the aging hearing system. Unfortunately, our hair cells that line our inner ears don’t seem to be immune from the effects of time and they naturally start to decline and stop functioning as we age.
Q: What is the rate of progression of sensorineural hearing loss?
Shaji Matthews: The rate of hearing loss progression can vary from person to person depending on their health. Some individuals may experience sudden hearing loss, typically in one ear, which requires immediate medical attention as it is considered a medical emergency. On the other hand, some may experience a slow progression of hearing loss due to factors such as aging, where certain hair cells in the cochlea become damaged over time. So it's challenging to determine a specific rate of progression as it varies for each individual.
Q: Can antibiotics cause hearing loss and tinnitus?
Shaji Matthews: Yes, certain antibiotics and ototoxic drugs like aspirin and some anti-depressants can cause hearing loss and tinnitus if taken for an extended period of time. It is recommended to consult with a physician before taking any ototoxic drugs.
BEST HEARING AIDS FOR YOU
Q: Are there different types of hearing aids for different types of hearing loss?
Victoria McLeod: While there are different styles of hearing aids, most hearing aid models can fit a variety of hearing loss types. The style of hearing aid that you end up with often depends on factors such as the dexterity of your fingers, the degree of your loss, and how comfortable you are with hearing aid technology. Ultimately, finding the best match for you comes down to having a conversation with your hearing care provider.
Q: Do inner ear hearing aids provide better sound over external ones?
Victoria McLeod: That’s very much dependent on your hearing loss and your specific ear. There are a lot of factors to consider. In general, they’re both capable of doing the same types of functions and amplifying sound to the same levels. The smaller inner ear ones, in order to get them so tiny, we have to give up some of the extra special functions of hearing aids. So sometimes there is that trade-off but in general both types of hearing aids are capable of doing the same thing.
Q: Do you need high-end hearing aids when you have mostly conductive hearing loss?
Victoria McLeod: A conductive hearing loss is an interesting one because sometimes they are medically treatable and if it is not, generally what’s happening is that you need a lot more sound to get through whatever is causing the loss. When that sound gets through to the inner ear the hair cells are functioning normally and can send the message up to the brain. So often times if you have a conductive hearing loss you can get away with a less high-end hearing instrument simply because you’re looking for a bump in volume to bypass whatever your hearing issue is.
Q: What happens when I wear hearing aids irregularly?
Victoria McLeod: When you wear hearing aids irregularly, I think the biggest issue is that it's harder to get used to. Anything that you do only every once in a while is like an exception, and your brain pays more attention to it. So, if you're only putting in your hearing aids on certain days or certain hours of your day, your brain thinks that it's a special thing and pays a lot of attention to it. And it can just make it more difficult for you to adapt to the sound quality brought in through your hearing aids.
Q: How much EMF output do hearing aids have?
Shaji Matthews: Hearing aids are normally considered as low EMF products. EMF stands for Electromagnetic Field. If you have any concerns regarding this, you should talk to your physician before wearing the hearing aids. For example, if you wear a pacemaker. Always good to ask your physician for guidance.
TAKING CARE OF YOUR EARS AND HEARING AIDS
Q: How can you safely clean your ears at home?
Victoria McLeod: You know, my mom used to say, "don't ever put anything larger than your elbow in your ear." There's a bit of truth to that homespun wisdom. We don't want you putting things down in your ear canals because most of the time, what you're doing is you're pushing the wax deeper into your ear. Wax is produced actually quite close to your ear drum and is supposed to work its way out. So, when you use a Q-Tip or a bobby pin or a house key, oftentimes what you're doing is pushing the wax farther down, and you're causing it to pile up.
There are special drops that you can get at your local hearing clinic offices that you can drop in your ears, though that can help to soften the wax. And sometimes a softer wax moves out on its own. But with a softer wax, what you can also do is then go to a hearing professional or to your doctor's office, and they can wash out or vacuum out the wax from your ears. But don't try it at home.
Q: How often should you change your wax guards?
Victoria McLeod: How often you change your wax guards is highly personal. Everybody has wax produced in their ears, it’s just a function of your ear canals. However, some people have wax glands that are highly active and other people have very underactive wax glands. If you have highly active wax glands then you may need to change your wax guards weekly, that’s not unusual. There are other people on the other side of the spectrum that may only need to change them every three months. So really it depends on how much wax your ears are producing.
Q: How to talk to your elderly parents (dad) that he should try hearing aids!
Victoria McLeod: This is a really emotional and tricky one. Because of course you can’t make a person do anything that they don’t want to do. I think everyone person knows that. My suggestion would be to have a conversation about how the hearing loss that you see in your parents, your dad in this case, is impacting you and the other family members around you. The funny thing about having hearing loss is that you often don’t know what you’re missing. You don’t know someone has repeated things multiple times for you or you can’t hear the footsteps of the person approaching you. You don’t know what you don’t hear. Sometimes having an honest conversation about the anxiety you’re having and about how it’s making you sad to see that person struggling in a social situation. Talk about how you’re concerned about their health and safety, letting them know those are the things you’re noticing can help that person (your dad) in this case see their hearing loss differently and how it’s not just impacting them but the people around them and their overall quality of life.
We hope that the valuable insights shared by our hearing experts, Victoria McLeod and Shaji Matthews, have helped to address some of the common concerns and questions around hearing aids and hearing loss.
Remember, everyone's hearing needs are unique, and seeking professional help can make a significant difference in improving your quality of life.