When it comes to managing a condition like hearing loss, it’s important to avoid tiptoeing around a crucial fact: in many cases, the dangers that cause it are permanent. Yes, there are ways to alleviate and overcome the issue through hearing aids and certain surgical procedures, but the natural functions of the ear, if damaged too greatly, will most likely never regain their original functionality.

The audiologists at any McGuire’s Hearing Center location throughout Long Island provide the expertise you need when seeking treatment and assistive technology, but learning more about your ears can also go a long way in keeping your hearing healthy! To that end, then, let’s look at the types of hearing loss that one can have and some ways to avoid them.

Sensorineural loss occurs when the nerves inside the ear or those that transmit sound to the brain are damaged. This type of injury is irreversible, which makes the artificial help of a hearing aid the only effective fix. It can be caused by tumors, certain types of infections and medications (including chemotherapy drugs, loop diuretics, and malaria treatments), and excessive noise exposure.

Conductive loss occurs when something blocks sound from reaching the nerves used to hear. This can often be corrected if treated properly, and can be caused by ear infections, a buildup of earwax, punctured eardrums, and other diseases that impact the ear canal or its connected bones.

Of course, some may experience a combination of these two conditions: for instance, a person with nerve damage can develop an infection that exacerbates a preexisting problem.

As such, perhaps the most effective treatment for a decaying sense of hearing is taking steps to prevent the causes of it in the first place. Keep those ears safe! While, to a certain degree, the eventual loss of sensory input is inevitable — due to advanced age, genetics, or the side effects of some disease — there are ways to minimize and delay degradation for as long as possible.

If you take a look back at that paragraph on sensorineural loss, you’ll probably note a cause that seems avoidable: noise exposure. It may be only one of many potential factors in hearing impairment, but it’s also one of the most important, given how omnipresent (and oftentimes unavoidable) it is. In a world of constant noise — the construction in the street outside, the shouting of a large crowd, the constant stream of music coming from radios and televisions and headphones — it’s all too easy to overstimulate ourselves to our detriment.

Noise levels are measured in decibels: normal conversation and the hum of a refrigerator come in between 45 and 60 decibels, while the sounds of heavy traffic or a loud engine track anywhere from 85 to 100. An MP3 player at its maximum value, a particularly boisterous concert, sirens, and firearms will be above 100.

Sounds at less than 75 decibels, even after persistent exposure, will most likely have no permanent impact on one’s hearing. Long or repeated exposure to anything above 85 decibels, however, can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the less time it takes for damage to occur. And while the symptoms — muffled or distorted hearing, a “ringing” sound within the ear (known as tinnitus) — may be temporary and subside after a time, it can be difficult to tell whether the effects will be permanent or not before the damage is done.

So be careful with your ears. Wear earplugs when involved in particularly noisy activities, keep your music at reasonable levels when using headphones, and minimize your exposure to loud, persistent sounds. If you experience any notable changes in your hearing, it’s wise to consult a doctor to determine whether it could be a lasting issue or not. For those in the Long Island area, McGuire’s Hearing Center can help you with testing and treatment, no matter which location you visit, so don’t hesitate to stop by!