by Won-Taek Choe, M.D.
Hearing loss can come in either mechanical (conductive) or nerve (sensorineural) forms, or can stem from a combination of both. An audiogram would help to distinguish which type is present. Conductive hearing loss can often be corrected surgically, while sensorineural hearing loss usually responds well to hearing aids. Patients with severe hearing loss may also be candidates for cochlear implantation. Hearing loss is often obvious, but can progress insidiously over long periods of time. More subtle symptoms also include ear plugging and pressure, tinnitus and, most important, social isolation. Children with hearing loss need to be monitored and treated closely to ensure adequate speech and language development, as well as optimal academic performance. Elderly individuals should be screened and treated for hearing loss to prevent isolation and potentially even dementia. Patients with single-sided hearing loss or tinnitus should seek medical attention, and patients with sudden hearing loss (especially with tinnitus or dizziness) require immediate evaluation and treatment.