Preventing and Treating Hearing Loss
Wednesday, February 15, 2023
Are you tired of constantly asking people to repeat themselves? Do you feel out of the loop because you can’t understand what’s said in conversations? If you think you may be experiencing hearing loss, there are steps you can take now to prevent further damage to your ears and ways to improve your hearing.
Max Pusz, M.D., is Board-certified in Otolaryngology (Ear, Nose and Throat). He practices in Zanesville with the Genesis ENT Group. As an expert in his field, Dr. Pusz shared his knowledge about hearing loss.
Symptoms of hearing loss
When someone is experiencing hearing loss, the first symptom is a problem with communication. Words and sentences become hard to understand. If a busy restaurant or your grandchild’s basketball game keeps you from hearing conversations with your loved ones, you may have hearing loss.
“History of loud noise exposure, ear surgeries and infections can all lead to hearing loss,” said Dr. Pusz. “If you’ve experienced any of these, consider making an appointment to get your hearing checked.”
Types of hearing loss
There are many different causes of hearing loss. It can stem from a history of loud noise exposure or hearing loss with age. Eustachian tube dysfunction, which is the difficulty of clearing ears, also causes hearing loss.
New onset hearing loss that is not gradual can be caused by a tumor. Hearing loss is often the first sign of a brain tumor. A stroke can also cause acute hearing loss. Otosclerosis is a type of hearing loss that can be familial and can be improved with surgery.
Treating hearing loss
“We treat based on the cause of hearing loss,” said Dr. Pusz. “Most commonly, we treat noise-induced hearing loss or age-associated hearing loss with hearing aids.”
A cochlear implant is another treatment option. Implants are used when traditional hearing aids no longer provide improvement. Patients must do four to six months of therapy to get the maximum benefit of cochlear implants. It’s life-changing for the patients who put in the work.
Over-the-counter hearing aids
As of 2023, the FDA allows direct-to-consumer hearing aids. While over-the-counter options may be less expensive, Dr. Pusz encourages patients to hold off.
“Over-the-counter hearing aids haven’t been on the market long enough, so we can’t give advice,” said Dr. Pusz. “In the next year or two, we will have a list of high-quality, over-the-counter hearing aids.”
Risks of untreated hearing loss
While some patients are hesitant to wear hearing aids, refusing to do so can have negative effects on their health. Research particularly shows a correlation between hearing loss and memory issues.
According to research published in JAMA Neurology in December 2022, individuals with hearing loss who used hearing restorative devices had a 19% decrease in risk of long-term cognitive decline.
Additionally, leaving your hearing loss untreated can increase your risk of dementia by 11% and Alzheimer’s by 10%, says the Alzheimer’s Association.
Hearing aids have improved significantly over the last several years.
“Hearing aid technology doubles every five years, so if patients tried hearing aids 10 or 15 years ago, we are lightyears ahead of where we were in the 2000s,” said Dr. Pusz.
Preventing hearing loss
Hearing protection is one of the biggest ways you can prevent hearing loss. AARP cites hunting and target shooting, attending a live music event and lawn mowing as everyday noises that can hurt your ears.
“If you’re doing activities that require shouting to communicate, then you should wear hearing protection,” said Dr. Pusz.
Earmuffs and earplugs reduce noise levels in loud settings. Putting hearing protection in place over time can reduce your risk of hearing loss.
If you think you’re experiencing hearing loss, contact a medical professional to figure out a treatment plan that works for you.