Imagine coming home from duty and not being able to hear your daughter’s laugh or understand your mother when she talks to you. This is the reality for thousands of soldiers and vets.
Hearing loss such as tinnitus is the number one disability among veterans and soldiers who have served or even been through training.
Despite recent changes in preventative care for hearing loss in the military with hearing protection, there’s still the high chance that, as a soldier and having to endure noise exposure, you’ll end up with hearing loss or tinnitus to some degree—even with hearing protection such as ear plugs. This is why it’s important to know your treatment options so you can still maintain a normal lifestyle.
We are going to learn all about the treatments used for noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL) such as hearing loss tinnitus.
Treatment Options for Noise-induced Hearing Loss
Noise-induced hearing loss, a type of sensorineural hearing loss, is simply permanent hearing loss due to exposure to loud sounds and noises. The risk is higher if you’re exposed to loud noises for long periods of time.
The loud noise you’ve experienced has damaged your hair cells in your ear. These hair cells help move sound into your inner ear so it can be sent to the auditory area of your brain.
Unfortunately, there’s no cure for noise-induced hearing loss or a hearing impairment through exposure to loud sound, but there are two basic treatment options for this type of hearing loss.
Once you’ve been to a health care professional and you’ve been diagnosed with noise-induced hearing loss, you’ll be referred to an audiologist or otolaryngologist.
More than likely, the specialist you see will decide a hearing aid will help you the most.
If your hearing loss is only in one hear, you’ll only be fitted for one hearing aid. If there’s hearing loss in both your ears, you’ll need two hearing aids.
Hearing aid options go back centuries and have evolved from silly looking ear trumpets to today’s modern digital hearing aids.
There are three parts to a hearing aid. First, a sound wave hits the microphone of the hearing aid. The microphone then converts the sound waves to electrical signals instead.
When the electrical signals hit the amplifier, the amplifier boosts or amplifies the electrical signals. These amplified signals are then sent to the speaker in your hearing aid, which sends the sound to your inner ear.
The undamaged hair cells in your ear will turn the electrical signals into a message that’s sent through neuropathways to your brain. Your brain then translates the message to a sound or to speech you can understand.
Using two hearing aids is called binaural amplification. A hearing aid in each ear makes speech more understandable for you. You’ll notice the difference in noisy environments when you’re trying to have a conversation.
Unfortunately, hearing aids will never restore your hearing to the way it was before your ears or ear hair cells were damaged. They amplify sounds so you can hear noises and understand speech better.
There are three styles of hearing aids to choose from:
- A Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aid is worn behind your ear with an ear mold that fits in your outer ear
- A Canal hearing aid fits into your ear canal
- An In-the-ear (ITE) hearing aid is made to fit inside your outer ear
For very severe noise-induced hearing loss that’s not responding to hearing aids, your specialist may suggest a cochlear implant surgery.
A cochlear implant is when your doctor inserts small electronic devices into your inner ear (down into your cochlea) as well as an external electronic device behind your ear.
The external implant has a microphone, a speech processor, and a transmitter. The microphone receives sound waves created by a sound or by speech. The microphone then passes the sound waves to the speech processor.
The speech processor converts the sound waves into electric signals and then sends these signals to the transmitter. The transmitter codes the electric signals. Then, these electrical signals are sent to the internal implant. This is made possible by magnet coupling.
When the sound hits the internal implant in your ear, it hits the receiver that was implanted on your temporal bone but beneath your skin. The receiver converts the electrical signals into electric pulses.
Then, it sends the electric pulses to the implant further into your inner ear. This part of the implant is an electrode array. The electrode array sends the message to your brain through stimulating your auditory neuropathways.
How your brain receives and translates the sound in a cochlear implant is slightly different than how you naturally hear.
Other types of hearing implants include:
- A middle ear implant (MEI) is inserted into your middle ear. It enhances sound waves to your cochlea. Some middle ear implants have an external device that’s attached behind your ear while other middle ear implants only have one small device. It works much like a cochlear implant.
- An auditory brainstem implant (ABI) is an electrode pad that’s implanted on your cochlear nucleus. Your cochlear nucleus is the part of your brainstem involved in hearing. When the electrode pad turns sound waves into electrical signals. These electrical signals are sent through auditory neuropathways to your brain.
- An electro-acoustic stimulation implant (EAS) is used for those who only have difficulty hearing high pitched noises and sounds. It’s implanted similarly to the cochlear implant and works much like a cochlear implant. The exception is that when the sound hits the electrode array, it only picks up high pitched sounds.
The Bottom Line
Hearing loss is a scary ordeal and a daily struggle. Which is why it’s important to see a specialist for some type of treatment to improve your life.
Make sure you and your doctor go over the options so you can pick the best treatment plan for you.
If you believe that your hearing damage was caused or exacerbated by using 3M’s defective Combat Arms Military Earplugs, then we can help you take legal action in seeking damage compensation from 3M. See if you qualify HERE.