Temporary Hearing Loss Prevention, Recovery, and Treatment
On the way home from a night in the club, it can feel like you're hearing the outside world through a set of earplugs. Or after a loud concert, it can feel like bees are humming in your ears. I certainly do after seeing Iron Maiden.
If, like me, you've experienced either of the above, then you have experienced a temporary form of hearing loss called temporary threshold shift (TTS).
But what exactly is hearing loss? That's what we are going to find out in this atricle, along with finding out its symptoms, how to avoid, and how to cure it.
Hearing loss is caused by the impairment of the passage of sound waves. It can be temporary (like in the above example) or permanent, partial or complete. It's not technically the same as deafness or hearing deficit, since deafness is the inability to hear and mostly occurs before birth or as a result of a major illness or infection.
There are three types of hearing loss:
- Conductive hearing loss
- Sensorineural hearing loss
- Central hearing loss.
The Anatomy of Hearing Loss
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss takes place when there is an obstacle in the external or middle ear preventing the passage of sound waves. The obstacle could be earwax buildup, middle ear infection and inflammation, trauma to the eardrum, Pagets' disease, or arthitis.
This type of hearing loss is usually treatable.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the pathways or structures of the inner ear are damaged. It may result from damage to the acoustic nerve, which carries information from the inner ear to the brain or from damage to tiny cells called haircells in the inner ear, which translate sound waves into nerve impulses for transmission to the brain. If they die, they're unable to repair themselves the way the other cells of the body do. The resulting hearing loss is permanent.
This type of hearing loss can be present from birth or can develop. Causes include certain medications like antibiotics, NSAIDs, quinine, and even aspirin! It can also be caused by a viral infection in the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss affects the acuity and clarity of hearing. Initially its noticed at higher pitches and then as it increases, at lower pitches, where speech is heard.
Sensorineural hearing loss affects the acuity and clarity of hearing. Higher pitches are the first to be damaged; as damage increases, the lower pitches, where speech is heard, can be affected.
This type of hearing loss is not treatable—so be very careful around loud noises! Hearing aids can people with sensorineural damage regain speech recognition.
Central Hearing Loss
Central hearing loss is very rare and is usually due to extreme brain damage. In this case, there is no problem with the ear; the problem resides in the Primary Auditory Cortex of the brain.
Causes of Hearing Loss
This may develop over a period of days, weeks, or years. Causes include:
- Changes in atmospheric pressure
- Earwax buildup or impaction
- Improper use of cotton swabs
- Bathing/swimming in water that is extra chlorinated or contains high levels of bacteria/fungi, which can lead to an ear infection
Loud music and sounds are the most common causes of hearing loss our society is experiencing today. At first, it causes TTS, but with continued exposure, it can cause a permanent threshold shift (PTS). In this context, a threshold is the volume above which you can hear sounds. If your ear adjusts to continual loud noises, the threshold is raised, so you will not be able to hear sounds you once could.
How to Test Whether You Are Experiencing TTS or PTS
Rub your index finger and thumb together a few inches from your ears, one at a time. If you can hear the sound of them rubbing together, then you probably are not experiencing TTS or PTS. Otherwise, read on for tips to aid recovery.
How to Prevent Hearing Damage
How to Recover Hearing
The following tips should not be substituted for professional medical treatment. After all, your doctor does know you the best.
Useful herbs that purify the blood and counteract infection:
- Burdock root
- Hawthorn leaf flower
- Myrrh gum
Other things that may help include:
- Eat pineapples to reduce inflammation. Also include a lot of garlic, kelp, and sea veggies in your diet.
- Reduce and limit your consumption of alcohol and sugar. Minimize your intake of caffeine, chocolate, and sodium.
- Remove earwax. To do so, use a mixture of one part vinegar and one part warm water. With an eye dropper, place a few drops in your ear, allow them to settle for a minute, then drain. Repeat the process with the other ear. Do this two or three times a day. Do not use cotton swabs to clean the inside of the ear canal, as the swab can push wax further into the ear canal. Another method of removing wax is ear candling, which should only be carried out by a professional.
- If you are experiencing ear pain, tug on your earlobe! If this makes the ear hurt, you probably have an ear infection and should seek medical treatment. If it does not hurt, the pain may be due to a dental problem. For an ear infection, put two to four drops of warm (not hot) liquid garlic extract in the affected ear. If both ears are affected, do not use the same dropper for both ears, as it may spread infection. This treatment is very helpful for children.
- When flying, chew gum during the plane's descent to prevent the discomfort and hearing loss associated with atmospheric pressure. Alternitavely, you can pop your ears by holding your nose and gently blowing air through your closed mouth. This clears the eustachian tubes. A decongestant such as pseudoephedrine, found in sudafed and other products, may also be helpful. But remember, these medications are dehydrating (and so is the lack humidity in an airplane cabin). If you use them, be sure to drink plenty of water and juice during the flight and skip the cocktail and coffee, as alcohol and caffeine also are dehydrating.
- Always wear ear protection such as disposable plugs or a headset when using loud appliances. You will want to do this when using power tools or lawn mowers and when you know you will be exposed to sudden loud noises, such as when shooting a gun.
- Protect your hearing when listening to music. A general guideline is to keep the volume low enough that you can easily hear the telephone and other sounds over the music.If you are using a personal stereo unit with head phones, you should be the only one able to hear your music. If someane else standing next to you can hear it, it's too loud.
- Take measures to reduce your cholesterol level. Studies suggest that people with high cholesterol levels have greater hearing loss as they age than people with normal cholesterol levels.