Types of Hearing Loss
Many things can cause a temporary hearing loss. These include ear infections, ear wax and sinus infections or blockage. This type is called conductive hearing loss because the hearing (auditory) nerve isn’t affected. Instead, they block the sound reaching the nerve. The other major type can be more severe as it affects the nerve itself. Sensorineural loss can be permanent as it does affect the nerve and once damaged it can’t be repaired. The most common causes are aging and over-exposure to loud noises.
In young children, the most common causes of hearing loss in one or both ears are infections, ear wax or loud noise exposure. In adults, a gradual loss in both ears is caused by aging. But how can you know what is serious and what isn’t?
For sinus infections, the person will have a headache with nasal congestion. Once the infection is cleared, the hearing returns to normal.
Ear infections will usually affect just one ear with sensations of pressure and pain, sometimes very severe pain. Children with ear infections can develop fluid in the ear resulting in severe hearing loss.
Ear wax can occur in one or both ears. It may be sudden or gradual. The main sensation is pressure in the ear. If ear wax is suspected and the person has no history of ear surgery or a torn eardrum try an over-the-counter wax softener and irrigation before seeing the doctor.
It should be mentioned that the practice of “candling” or using a cone shaped candle placed in the ear to remove wax is never recommended. It has caused severe burns, and there is no evidence that it works. The FDA has issued warnings against the practice.
When To See The Doctor
So how do you know when to see a doctor and what type of doctor should you see? For many hearing emergencies, it may be best to see an ENT (ear, nose and throat) specialist. These doctors specialize in diseases of the ear as well as the throat and nose. They can often find and treat the cause of your hearing loss.
You should always see a doctor if any of the following occurs:
- A sudden loss of hearing in both ears especially if the cause can’t be determined.
- A loss of hearing with severe pain and drainage. These symptoms are most likely an infection of some sort and need immediate treatment, or it could damage the ear.
- Sudden dizziness with hearing loss may mean an infection or damage to the inner ear, and it also needs immediate treatment in order to avoid permanent harm.
- Ringing in the ear (tinnitus) can signify damage to the hearing nerve and should be treated as soon as possible.
- An injury that affects the ear and causes a loss of hearing.
- A hearing loss that lingers even after an ear infection or sinus infection has been successfully treated.
All of these can cause permanent hearing loss and should be treated without delay. An ENT doctor is often the best type of doctor to determine a cause, and develop a treatment plan to save or restore your hearing.