3 Categories of Ear and Hearing Conditions
PERFECTfit custom ear solutions can play a part long term ear and hearing care. Some of the more common conditions are below
Noise induced hearing loss
Noise induced hearing loss (NIHL) can occur suddenly or gradually over a period of time, and is supposedly becoming more common, now that so many people listen to music for long periods through MP3 players. Most upsettingly, NIHL can come on suddenly some time after the causal event. Triggered by noise exposure over a long period (e.g. working in a noisy environment, such as a bar, club or factory) or sudden extreme noise trauma (e.g. gunfire, explosions), PERFECTfit NoisePro products are ideal at providing protection in this sort of situation.
Symptoms can be varied but are often similar to age related hearing loss. Further testing and diagnosis may reveal a loss that exhibits complex audiograms, which may make NIHL more difficult to treat than age-related hearing loss. As with the majority of types of hearing loss, NIHL cannot be cured, although common treatments include hearing aids, other amplification devices, cognitive training programs and lifestyle changes.
View an overview at Wikipedia or for more information consult your local audiologist or PERFECTfit, audiologist partner.
Tinnitus concerns a person hearing a sound without there actually being a sound to hear. Often a whistling or bell noise, tinnitus can be very loud to the sufferer and is characteristically individual to the sufferer – the sound and intensity of Tinnitus varies from person to person. Individual experiences can vary from mildly annoying, to intrusive, to very distressing – so much so that sleep can become difficult.
Tinnitus is thought to usually be the result of a hearing loss (often noise induced), combined with a neurological response that generates the sensation of sound. It is not uncommon for stress and lack of sleep or other triggers to aggravate tinnitus. Tinnitus is an area of increasing research and – like hearing loss – there is no total “cure”, although people can take effective action to manage their condition. Again, effective noise protection – like NoisePro is recommended to reduce the risk of Tinnitus.
Infections & Grommets
Grommets are often used by doctors to help children with glue ear (Otitis Media). These small perforations in the eardrum are used to help dry out a child’s middle ear (the portion of the ear behind the ear drum) that has become blocked by fluid, reducing hearing ability.
About 20% of children (http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/surgical-procedures/grommet-insertion-child.htm) will suffer from glue ear at some stage, so glue ear and grommets are common enough not to worry about in most cases. However, because grommets penetrate the eardrum, it is important that ears ar kept dry to reduce any risk of infection. Netdoctor.co.uk recommends swimming with earplugs to keep ears nice and dry.
WetBobs are a the ideal earplugs for children with grommets or with sensitive ears to cold water or who are delicate to infection. For more information, contact your GP or consult your local audiologist or PERFECTfit, audiologist partner.
Surfers Ear results in bony growths (“exostosis of the ear”) growing into the ear canal. In bad cases, the ear can become blocked, but complications can arise before then, as the lumps/exotoses block wax, water and debris from leaving the ear. This may lead to soreness, irritation and infection. The remedy for severe cases of Surfers Ear is to operate.
The lumps may start growing relatively quickly during a surfer/swimmer’s career, as the body tries to combat cold winds and water by laying down new material in the ear. This means that as surfers stay out longer – as wetsuits get better – the problem is getting worse. Fortunately the solution to surfers ear is simple – custom made swim plugs like WetBobs are ideal at preventing the condition and have benefits over home grown versions, in that vents can be added to improve hearing and balance (very important!). Since surfers get cold fingers, WetBobs can also be specified with extra long extraction cords for easier gripping. For more information contact your local GP or the relevant PERFECTfit partner.
Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the ear canal that is common in swimmers. Swimming repetitively rinses the ear out, which can dry the delicate skin in the ear canal, wash any protective wax away and leave behind a warm, damp environment that is perfect for bacteria to grow.
Any flaking skin or scratching in the ear is therefore more likely to become infected, resulting in discomfort and sometimes a discharge from the canal. A course of the correct ear drops from your GP will resolve the situation. Swimmers ear can be prevented by keeping water out of the ears, by using WetBobs for example.
3.Natural and Age Related
Hearing loss and Presbycusis
As we get older, our hearing degrades. Most often, we lose the ability to hear high frequencies, although this is also a result of Noise Induced Hearing Loss (NIHL). This means that the more we protect our hearing with noise protection, or by avoiding loud environments, for example, the better our hearing will be for longer. Hearing losses are classified as a sensorineural loss or a conductive loss – or a combination (a mixed loss).
Sensorineural hearing loss is a variation of hearing loss that occurs in the inner ear, auditory nerve or the central processing areas of the brain. Typically this means that the cochlea, hair cells in the cochlea or auditory nerve are not functioning correctly. Including full deafness, losses are generally classified between mild, moderate, severe or profound.
A conductive hearing loss occurs when sound cannot travel through the ear to the auditory nerve due to some physical block.
Some conductive losses can be treated simply (e.g. wax build up), but complex cases and sensorineural losses cannot be cured. Most often, a hearing aid and potentially a rehabilitation system like LACE are prescribed. For more information on hearing loss, visit RNID (or Action on Hearing Loss), BSHAA, BSA or AIHHP
Hyperacusis is characterised by extreme or oversensitivity to certain sounds, that makes it uncomfortable to listen to them. The exact cause is still under research, and it is commonly associated with tinnitus. Once again, there is no cure, but people can take steps to reduce the impact of Hyperacusis on their lives, or to mitigate its effects.
As with tinnitus, many people find that noise protection helps, as does counselling. For more information contact the British Tinnitus Association, a qualified audiologist or the relevant PERFECTfit partner.