Bilateral hearing loss is a type of hearing impairment that affects both ears. This type of hearing loss may happen over a long period of time or may transpire instantly. Bilateral hearing loss can affect people of all walks of life and may occur at any age, even at birth. Anatomically, hearing loss in both ears may occur in the outer, middle, or inner ear, or may be a blend of all three. The hearing loss may be caused by a variety of conditions, especially old age. Bilateral hearing loss is typically treated with hearing aids in both ears.
One of the most common causes for hearing loss in both ears is a condition called presbycusis, which affects individuals as they age. Presbycusis affects approximately 40 percent of people age 75 or older. Over time, a person’s inner and middle ear, along with the nerve conduits to the brain, gradually become less effective. This affects both ears equally.
Other causes of bilateral hearing loss include some type of auditory trauma, often exposure to loud noises, which can be sudden or gradual. Exposure to loud sounds may rupture the eardrums. Noises that can bring about hearing loss in both ears include music, an explosion, or heavy industrial equipment, among other types of noise.
Bilateral hearing loss can also be induced by other factors, including hereditary and the use of tobacco. Also, hearing loss in both ears may be caused as a result of side effects from certain medications, including antibiotics. Sometimes, the hearing loss in both ears can be brought on by a combination of the factors of old age, auditory trauma, and genetics, as well as use of tobacco and certain medicines.
A person experiencing hearing loss in both ears hears sound in a lower volume. Often times, an individual will have trouble distinguishing certain high-pitched sounds and conversations when there is other noise around. Also, a person will typically experience an annoying ringing or hissing sound in the ears.
Bilateral hearing loss can be confirmed during a physical exam. A physician will probe into a person’s ears and ask questions about hearing loss. Often times, a doctor will confirm hearing loss with the whisper test. During the whisper test, the medical specialist will turn his back to a patient and ask him to repeat certain words. In some cases, a patient may be referred to a hearing specialist who can conduct diagnostic tests, such as using electric equipment that transmits sounds at an assortment of frequencies and volumes, to see if hearing loss is present.
For hearing loss in both ears, treatment often requires a fitting of hearing aids in both ears. Hearing aids, which may be digital or analog, vary, as some fit partially or completely inside the ear canal. Surgery and medical treatment are usually not effective in treating hearing loss in both ears.