After our eyes, the most important sensory organ is our ears. This means hearing loss can have significant consequences. In most cases, hearing loss is age-related. However it can also be triggered by loud noises or infections, or may be hereditary. Hearing loss may occur very suddenly, although in most cases it's gradual - meaning you only become aware of it as it progresses. Fortunately, in most cases hearing loss can be improved using a hearing aid.
Hearing loss rarely occurs all of a sudden. It usually develops gradually, over a long period of time – and is therefore imperceptible at first. This is because those affected gradually get used to the onset of hearing loss. Because the brain can compensate for the hearing deficiencies for a long time, there are few disadvantages in everyday life during the first phase.
But from a certain point, hearing loss can no longer be readily compensated for. Often, this is noticed by family and friends of the affected person long before they themselves realize they cannot hear normally.
Even those affected by hearing loss who know that they can no longer hear perfectly often still do nothing for a long time. Using the argument "It’s still OK!", they put off a hearing test with an audiologist. This is because being aware of your own hearing loss is one thing, but acknowledging it is not so easy.
The cause of hearing loss may be found at various points in our complicated, sensitive ears: the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear or even the auditory nerve. Hearing loss is not always age-related. It can also be triggered by loud noises, infections, poisoning or injuries, or may be hereditary.
It is mainly the higher frequencies that are affected first in most cases. Because these are important for hearing the so-called voiceless consonants (f, s, p, t), the understanding of speech is often impaired at an early stage. Depending on the type of hearing loss, other symptoms appear, for example tinnitus, noise sensitivity, or dizziness. In almost all cases, hearing loss is permanent, and it is often difficult to predict how it will progress.
In just a single moment, the world sounds quieter in one ear. Listening to voices and music suddenly sounds different – as if you’re wrapped in cotton wool. The phenomenon is called acute hearing loss, and should be treated by an audiologist or audiometrist as quickly as possible. Although the specific cause is unknown, there are various theories that may explain it. The most common theory is a circulation disorder of the small blood vessels in the inner ear, i.e. a kind of "ear infarction”. It is assumed that stress is a trigger for acute hearing loss, since patients often report being exposed to extreme strain before the acute hearing loss began.
The basis used is the World Health Organization (WHO) definition, which states that a person with hearing loss of more than 25 decibels (dB) has hearing damage.