Hearing, balance and ear surgery
Whether you were born deaf or hard of hearing or are experiencing hearing loss later in life, we’re here to help you find a solution. From diagnosis to hearing aid fittings and cochlear implants, our hearing loss specialists will partner with you to find a solution that fits your lifestyle and needs.
What is hearing loss?
Hearing loss can occur in one ear or both ears and range from mild to profound. Additionally, some people may experience ringing in the ears (called tinnitus).
Hearing loss can be temporary or permanent. Depending on the type and cause of your hearing loss, the condition can be treated through audiology and hearing devices, such as hearing aids and cochlear implants.
Our pediatric otolaryngology (ENT) team specializes in diagnosing and treating hearing loss in children as early as possible to prevent any impact on learning or development. However, hearing loss can be a natural part of the aging process and commonly occurs after age 40.
If you develop hearing loss in later life, there can be several causes including:
- Certain medications
- Exposure to loud noises
- Traumatic head injury
- Tumors in the head and neck region
Knowing the signs of hearing loss can help you know when it might be time to see an ENT doctor for evaluation and treatment.
Types of hearing loss
There are four types of hearing loss:
- Mild hearing loss
- Moderate hearing loss
- Severe hearing loss
- Profound hearing loss
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Hearing loss symptoms and risk factors
When your hearing starts to decline, there are certain signs to look for. Sometimes, a loved one may become aware there is an issue before you do as hearing loss symptoms can occur gradually over time.
Depending on the cause, the severity of hearing loss symptoms may vary. However, symptoms are generally the same regardless of the level or cause of your hearing loss.
Symptoms of hearing loss include:
- Avoiding social settings
- Difficulty understanding words, especially when there is background noise
- Frequently asking people to repeat themselves or speak louder
- Listening to the TV or radio loudly
- Muffled sounds
- Removing yourself from conversations
- Trouble hearing consonants
- Age: Over time, it’s natural for our hearing ability to decrease. This typically happens after age 40.
- Exposure to loud noise: Especially with long-term exposure, loud noise can damage the cells in your inner ear and your hearing.
- Family history: If you have a family member with hearing loss, you may have a higher risk for developing hearing damage or hearing loss as you age.
- Other risk factors: Other risk factors that can increase your odds for acquired hearing loss include certain medications or illnesses that affect hearing.
Diagnosing hearing loss
Our audiologists (hearing specialists) will work closely with you to evaluate the type and level of your hearing loss and develop an individualized treatment plan based on your needs.
Some of the diagnostic tests your doctor may perform to check for hearing loss include:
- Physical exam – During a physical exam for hearing loss, your doctor will look inside your ear for signs of inflammation, infection or ear wax that may be causing it.
- Audiometer tests – This non-invasive hearing test measures your ability to hear different sounds, pitches and frequencies.
Vestibular and balance treatment
Your vestibular system is made up of the parts of your inner ear and brain that control your balance. If these parts are damaged, you may experience spinning unsteadiness, blurred vision, falls or nausea.
The specialists in our Vestibular and Balance Center have extensive experience evaluating and treating these symptoms. Our team includes:
- Neurologist/otologist (an ENT physician who specializes in disorders of the ear)
- Vestibular physical therapist
Our team will evaluate you through diagnostic testing to determine the cause of your symptoms. Treatment may include medical or rehabilitative treatment, depending on your diagnosis. Learn more about vestibular and balance issues.
Hearing loss treatment
Our audiologists use leading-edge diagnostic tests to determine the level and extent of your hearing loss.
Depending on the type, cause and level of your hearing loss, one or more of the following medical or surgical treatments may be recommended.
Advances in hearing aid technology have made hearing aids more effective than ever for people with mild, moderate and severe hearing loss. Our specialists will fit you for a hearing aid and show you how to use it successfully.
Whether your hearing is affected by tumors or benign growths, ear surgery can help a number of ear conditions. Sometimes, prior infections can affect the small bones within your ear that help with hearing and surgery can allow us to rebuilt those bones to improve your hearing.
A cochlear implant – a small, surgically implanted electronic device that partially restores hearing – is another way that our surgeons can help with hearing loss. These devices bypass the damaged parts of the ear to deliver sound signals directly to the hearing nerve.
Benefiting children and adults who are deaf or have severe hearing loss, a cochlear implant can help them hear sounds, speech and music. Most people with severe to profound hearing loss can better understand speech over the phone or in person with a cochlear implant than with a hearing aid.
Our cochlear implant team includes an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor, audiologist, speech and language pathologist, and social worker.
Hearing loss care at Geisinger
Our ENT specialists provide comprehensive treatment of all hearing loss issues, including leading-edge diagnostic tests to determine the extent of your hearing loss. When you choose our ENT team to help care for you, you’ll get:
- Experience you can count on – Our hearing loss specialists treat hundreds of patients each year with varying levels of hearing loss, from mild to profound. We offer a team approach that includes ENT doctors, audiologists, speech and language pathologists and social workers.
- Helping you adjust – We’ll work closely with you and your loved ones to determine the best path forward to address your hearing loss, as well as help you adjust after your treatment, if needed.
- Pediatric hearing loss care – Our pediatric otolaryngology team works with families to detect and rehabilitate hearing loss in infants and children. We work to treat hearing loss in children as soon as possible, before it can impact learning and development.
- World-class care, close to home – With locations throughout central, northeast and south-central Pennsylvania, our experienced ENT team provides consultations and comprehensive care. We offer leading-edge treatment options and tailored-to-you care backed by the expertise and innovation of a nationally recognized health system.