Aug. 3—DICKINSON—Dr. Krystal Mann is an audiologist with a private practice called
Hearing center. She received her medical certification from the AT Still School of Osteopathic Medicine in Mesa, Arizona.
Hearing loss can be, well, deafening. It can make work, play, socializing, and other basic life functions brutally difficult. Mann said anyone who thinks they or a loved one might be suffering from hearing loss should arrange to have it checked.
“The temporal lobe is one of the main lobes of your brain. And if it’s not stimulated by sound and neurons die, you can imagine that could lead to worsening dementia. It doesn’t cause necessarily dementia, but there’s a strong correlation there,” Mann said. “Unlike a muscle, once (the neural connection) is gone, you can never get it back. So over time and this nerve no longer transmits sound to the brain accurately, it leads to poor clarity. So even the most suitable hearing aid is no longer clear to them.”
Untreated hearing loss can lead to isolation and depression as the individual and their acquaintances become frustrated with each other over the increasing difficulty in communicating, she said. This problem is far from being exclusive to the elderly.
“Signs of hearing loss include, you know, asking ‘what? “Often loved ones see it before the hearing-impaired person identifies it themselves…Another sign is simply asking to turn up the volume on the television,” Mann said. “If the clarity isn’t good on the phone, well often on the phone it’s harder for people with hearing loss to hear because there are no visual cues.”
According to the National Institute of Health, a 2016 study
found that approximately 28.8 million American adults could benefit from the use of hearing aids.
Mann said hearing tests as a precaution are often a good idea for those who never had one as a teenager or adult. Sometimes she discovers a hearing loss problem when a patient comes in for a checkup for earwax blockage.
“We always recommend that everyone have a hearing baseline, so in case something happens, we have a hearing test to compare it to,” she said.
Mann added that the official recommendation, at a minimum, is for everyone to have a baseline hearing test after they turn 55 and before they start kindergarten. Early detection is improving, as many hospitals have now adopted a standard procedure for hearing tests for newborns. Hearing loss in children is sometimes confused with a learning disability or attention deficit disorder, as it is often overlooked as a possible explanation. The test is therefore important.
“Then we can totally rule out hearing loss. We definitely don’t want them going to school and falling behind,” she said.
There are two categories of hearing loss.
“Permanent hearing loss is something we call sensorineural hearing loss because it is due to damage in the inner ear and the nerve pathways beyond it. Whereas medical hearing loss, we call this conductive hearing loss because that there is an abnormality in the outer or middle ear,” Mann said. “So an example of sensorineural hearing loss, i.e. permanent hearing loss, would be damage to the hair cells external parts of the cochlea due to exposure to noise and then damage. And then an example of conductive hearing loss would be hearing loss due to ear infection or fluid in the ear in the middle ear space. You may also have mixed hearing loss, which is a combination of the two.
She then explained the root causes of conductive (medical) hearing loss.
“Medical is mostly fluid in the ear,” she said. “It’s caused by malfunction of the eustachian tube when it doesn’t drain fluid the way it’s supposed to, and it just causes fluid to build up in the middle ear space. And then sometimes, this fluid may drain on its own, but if it doesn’t, it requires medical intervention, so I would refer them to an otolaryngologist.
The CDC recommends wearing hearing protection when exposed to noise above 85 decibels, especially if it’s for more than a few minutes. This includes the use of a lawnmower and many power tools. Mann said that for some other loud activities, like a rock concert or clay pigeon shooting, where you don’t want to drown out the noise completely. There are products that suppress it to a healthier decibel. They understand
and custom moulds. Headset and earphone users need to pay attention to how loud they listen to music.