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Hearing Loss

Your hearing is our concern at MUSC Health Ear, Nose & Throat (ENT). We understand that hearing is an important sense that impacts how you interact with the world around you, and we want to improve your quality of life by helping you improve your hearing abilities.

Hearing loss is caused by many conditions, and our team of specialists will work together to determine a diagnosis and the best treatment plan for you.

  • Aging (Presbycusis) is the gradual loss of hearing, typically in both ears, commonly associated with aging. One in three adults over age 65 and nearly half of people over age 75 experience hearing loss. Symptoms include difficulty understanding speech and conversations, particularly when there is background noise. Some sounds might seem loud and tinnitus (ringing) can occur. Treatment will be determined based on age, overall health, medical history, extent of the condition, and expectations for progression of hearing loss. Treatment can include hearing aids or assistive devices such as telephone amplifiers, ear plugs if sound is bothersome, maskers for tinnitus, and even cochlear implants if the hearing loss is significant.

  • Otosclerosis is caused by an abnormal growth of bone in the ear, typically preventing the third bone from vibrating properly and often leading to hearing loss. Patients typically notice progressive hearing loss that is most commonly worse in one ear. It often begins in patients between 20 to 40 and is more common in women. This condition runs in the family for around half of patients. Treatments range from hearing aids to surgery.

  • Pediatric Hearing Loss: Children can be born with or develop hearing loss over time. Early diagnosis and treatment of hearing loss are critical to the development of speech and language. Approximately half of children born with hearing loss have a genetic cause that can often be identified with testing, and many can be treated with hearing aids. Children with more severe loss can be eligible for cochlear implants. We are equipped to provide the most up to date diagnostic testing and treatment for all causes of hearing loss in children.

  • Noise-Induced Hearing Loss: Exposure to noise is damaging to the inner ear, in particular to the hair cells. If the damage is severe enough, the hair cells are not able to recover from the damage, and hearing loss is permanent. Further exposure to damaging noise causes further hearing loss. The typical hearing loss seen in patients exposed to noise is described as a noise notch in the 3000-4000 Hz range. The notch deepens and widens with further noise exposure. Many patients have good hearing in the lower frequencies. Many patients also have tinnitus. Treatment generally includes hearing aids.

  • Toxins / Medications cause hearing loss through different mechanisms that like noise, generally affect the hair cells of the inner ear. The hair cells of the inner ear are metabolically very active, and items that overstress the system can cause damage to the hair cells. For example, a patient might require a chemotherapy or antibiotic to manage a life-threatening condition. Some of the treatments cause hearing loss. Careful monitoring of hearing loss is recommended, and at times, lowering the dosage or even discontinuing the offending medication is recommended. This can be a challenging situation, and clear communication with our medical colleagues is important to maximize patient care and minimize hearing loss.

  • Sudden Hearing Loss is a relatively common condition where a patient loses a significant amount of hearing over a short period of time. The hearing loss described is not from fluid behind the eardrum, and it does not recover with antibiotics or nasal steroids. Patients experiencing a sudden hearing loss should be seen as soon as possible, evaluated for other issues (such as a stroke), and they should begin therapy in hopes of recovering their hearing as soon as possible. We see hundreds of patients with this condition yearly, and we are experienced with diagnostic and therapeutic options.

  • Genetic hearing loss is common. Some patients have a strong family history of hearing loss and have reasonable chances of having hearing loss of similar type and magnitude as their families. Other patients have no family history of hearing loss. This loss is often the manifestation of a mutation in a recessive gene carried by both of their parents. Testing for some of the common forms of genetic hearing loss is common. At present, extensive research into the causes of and potential genetic therapies for some of these hearing losses is occurring worldwide. For many patients with genetic hearing loss, hearing aids or cochlear implants provide substantial benefit.