What is progressive hearing loss?
A progressive hearing loss is a hearing loss that gets worse (more severe) over time. When the hearing loss develops slowly over time, it can be hard to identify a progressive hearing loss. But if the hearing gets worse over a shorter period of time, we more often notice that our hearing has changed. Also, the stronger the decline in hearing, the more we become aware of the loss of our ability to hear.
A progressive hearing loss typically starts as a mild hearing loss and then later becomes a moderate hearing loss or even more severe.
A sudden hearing loss is not a progressive hearing loss as it develops over a period of just a few days. A progressive hearing loss develops more slowly over a longer period.
Causes of progressive hearing loss
Why does my hearing get worse? Many types of hearing loss develop and get worse over time. Just as our vision becomes poorer as we age, the same happens with our hearing. Our ability to hear declines when we get older. This is called an age-related hearing loss. In this way, many of us will experience a progressive hearing loss sooner or later.
Also, a hearing loss caused by noise (noise-induced hearing loss) and some types of genetic hearing loss can get worse over time. Some illnesses and certain types of medication can also result in progressive hearing loss.
Most often, it is a sensorineural hearing loss (SNHL) that develops and becomes worse. A sensorineural hearing loss results from damage to the tiny hair cells in the inner ear. This damage in the inner ear can get worse and more widespread over time.
An age-related hearing loss and a noise-induced hearing loss are both forms of sensorineural hearing loss.
A conductive hearing loss is often more stable. A progressive conductive hearing loss is quite rare, but the condition otosclerosis often causes a progressive conductive hearing loss. A conductive hearing loss is when the ability to conduct sound from the external and middle ear into the inner ear is reduced or lost.
Buildup of earwax can also result in a progressive hearing loss. In this case, the earwax must be removed by a professional and the hearing will then typically be restored.
What are the symptoms of a progressive hearing loss?
A progressive hearing loss may occur at both low frequency and high frequency.
If your hearing has become worse, you will experience that it becomes more and more difficult to hear and understand what people are saying in more and more situations. Certain high-frequency sounds like women´s and children´s voices have become more difficult to hear. Some sounds may even have disappeared, such as the birds singing. You may turn up the volume more and more on the TV or the radio and maybe you now also have to put on the subtitles to follow a film or a TV-program.
These are some of the symptoms and signs of a progressive hearing loss. Many of the symptoms of a progressive hearing loss are similar to those of a hearing loss in general. Read more about the symptoms of hearing loss.
If you suspect that your child has a progressive hearing loss, you will experience that your child has more and more difficulty hearing in more and more situations and may not even respond to what you are saying. Read more about the signs of hearing loss in children.
Who can get a progressive hearing loss?
We can all experience a progressive hearing loss and many of us will get it to a greater or lesser extent as we age. Also, children can have a progressive hearing loss. Progressive hearing loss in adults is quite common such as a progressive hearing loss occurring in old age. An age-related hearing loss typically develops over time.
What to do when your hearing gets worse?
If you experience that your hearing has become worse and you do not use hearing aids or other hearing instruments, you should contact a hearing professional to get your ears examined and have a hearing test taken to find out if you could benefit from using hearing aids.
If you think that your child´s hearing has become worse, it is very important that you take the child to a hearing professional to get the child’s ears and hearing examined and tested.
If you already use hearing aids or hearing implants you should contact your hearing professional and tell him or her that you have experienced your hearing becoming worse. The hearing professional will then examine and test your hearing and find out if your hearing instruments have to be adjusted or replaced with another more powerful type.