The loss of hearing can be life-altering. Socially and professionally, patients note major changes in how they interact with the world and how others treat them. At Osborne Head and Neck Institute Division of Otology and Restorative Hearing, we understand hearing is a way to connect to the world. We utilize state-of-the-art diagnostic and therapeutic modalities to treat hearing loss and restore hearing.
How do I know if I have hearing loss?
Because hearing loss usually occurs gradually, early symptoms are often subtle. These may include:
- Needing to raise the volume on the television
- Difficulty hearing at parties or restaurants
- Difficulty understanding children or women
- Asking others to repeat themselves
Most patients are able to ignore these symptoms. It is usually at the urging of a loved one who is affected by these behaviors that patients seek care.
A common side effect of hearing loss, particularly as it advances, is ringing in the ear, referred to as tinnitus. This symptom is another common patient complaint, and hearing loss is often found during evaluation.
What are common causes of hearing loss?
There are many other causes of hearing loss, including illness and medications. An otologist can determine the cause of your hearing loss, which results in optimal treatment.
- Wax blockage
- Uncontrolled allergies and Eustachian tube dysfunction
- Loud noise exposure (acute or chronic)
- Surfer’s ear (exostosis)
- Ear drum perforation
Who should I see if I suspect to have hearing loss?
An otologist is an otolaryngologist (ENT) physician who specializes in the care of the ear and treatment of ear disorders. This specialist is most capable of determine the cause of your hearing loss and providing you with the most advanced treatment options.
It is important to seek early evaluation and treatment. Some types of hearing loss can be reversed with timely treatment. There are many options besides hearing aids that may facilitate a return to hearing. Evaluation is critical to identify which options are available to you.
What tests are needed to diagnose my hearing loss?
An otologist will often order a basic hearing test, which includes an audiogram and tympanogram. The audiogram tests your hearing at different frequencies and determines the lowest volume at which you can hear the tone in each frequency. The audiogram will also generate a score that shows how well you can discriminate different similar-sounding words.
The tympanogram is a measurement of the movement of your ear drum. This test is necessary to know if there is a problem with your ear drum mobility.
Depending on the results of these basic tests, the doctor may decide to order more specific tests such as acoustic reflex testing, Auditory Brainstem Monitoring (ABR), otoacoustic Emissions (OAE), electrocochleography (ECOG), and vestibular evoked myogenic potential (VEMP).
What are some treatment options for my hearing loss?
The treatment of hearing loss does not always require the use of a hearing aid. In cases of mechanical obstruction, an otologist can fix a hearing issue by simply cleaning the ear. Infections are similarly easily treated, as is fluid in the middle ear. There are now minimally invasive techniques such as injections, small implants, and reconstructive techniques that can help selected patients with hearing loss. Evaluation is required to determine the cause of your hearing loss and the treatment that is most appropriate.
Are there surgical options to treat my hearing loss?
Dr. Nazarian values the conservative management of ear disorders. If surgery is required, he incorporates cutting edge research, technology, and, most importantly, compassion into the operating room setting.
Otologic surgery treats complex, minute anatomy, and requires the use of an operating microscope for most surgeries. This results in minimally-invasive surgery with most procedures having no visible incision or only a small incision behind the ear. There is minimal reported pain and patients are usually discharged on the same day as their procedure.
Hearing loss may be caused by problems that can be treated surgically. Some causes of surgically-treatable hearing loss include:
- Cholesteatoma: This overgrowth of tissue is usually due to chronic ear infections. Surgical treatment can result in significant improvement in hearing; however recurrent cholesteatoma may occur. Treatment of recurrent cholesteatoma requires the care of an expert in ear surgery.
- Trauma: If the small bones of hearing are disrupted by trauma (i.e., car accident, head trauma, etc), repairing the bones may return normal hearing
- Otosclerosis: The smallest bone of hearing, the stapes, can become rigid and unable to conduct sound. Replacing this bone with a prosthesis restores hearing.
- Eustachian tube dysfunction: When the ear is unable to equalize pressure with the environment, it can result in muffled hearing. New techniques in Eustachian tube management allows pressure equalization and clearer hearing.
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