Hearing Loss Comes in Many Forms
Hearing loss is not a mere inability to hear; it comes in varying degrees of severity and in different types of manifestations. Loss of hearing can occur in one ear (known as unilateral) or both ears (or bilateral). A simple hearing examination will be able to figure out what type of hearing loss you have and to what degree it affects one or both of your ears.
Hearing tests are painless and pretty easy to conduct. You will have an audiologist who is a trained hearing health professional who will walk you through the assessment and follow up treatment options. A hearing exam generally involves an audiogram which results in graphs that depict what types of sounds you are able to hear.
Sound ranges from low frequency, measured in decibels (DB) to high frequency. Lower pitched sounds are sounds that have more bass to them, such as the mooing of a cow or the low rumble of thunder. Higher pitched sounds are sounds that are shriller, such as the sound of a baby’s laughter or the chirping of a bird.
Your hearing exam results will be displayed on the graph mentioned earlier. It will clearly indicate the specific pattern in which your particular type of hearing damage has occurred. It will also show you the degree to which hearing loss is affecting each of your ears.
People with unilateral loss of hearing tend to have trouble hearing using the specific ear in which they have hearing loss. In comparison, bilateral hearing damage affects both ears thus a person with this type of hearing impairment will generally have trouble hearing clearly in both ears.
Unilateral loss of hearing can get a bit disorienting since the person who has it is has a diminished capacity to locate the source of the sounds they hear. They generally do not have trouble following conversations unless there is a lot of background noise. Generally speaking, unilateral hearing damage tends to impair the ability to concentrate on conversations especially in crowded and noisy environments.
If you find that you have bilateral hearing damage, this means that hearing loss affects both of your ears. A common cause for this type of hearing loss is aging, which causes deterioration in the delicate hair follicles in the inner ear which pick up sound signals. Bilateral loss of hearing can occur either symmetrically (which means that both ears are affected to the same degree of hearing loss) or asymmetrically (where one ear has more hearing loss than the other).
You may be curious as to how asymmetrical hearing loss can take place if the ears are constantly hearing the same level of sound. Certain professions tend to involve exposing a single ear to the source of the noise, which results in hearing loss. For example, if you answer telephone calls using your right ear only, you may suffer more from hearing damage to the right ear than the left one. If you operate loud machinery with your head tilted on the left side, your left ear may suffer more hearing damage than the right. If this exposure is prolonged over a period of time then the bilateral hearing loss tends to become asymmetrical. No matter the type of hearing loss you have, it is best to seek treatment for even a minor hearing loss to prevent serious health issues in the future.