I am a 65-year-old male and am experiencing hearing loss in my right ear. I’ve been a farmer all my life and wonder if the noise from driving farm equipment has had an effect on my hearing? Any suggestions on what I should do to determine if it is temporary or permanent hearing loss?

— Dave, Rupert

Answered by Sonda LaDeaux, Audiologist, MS, CCC-A, St. Luke’s Clinic, Ear, Nose, Throat and Facial Plastic Surgery:

Being a farmer puts you at risk for hearing loss due to consistent noise exposure for many years. There are also other noisy occupations that can contribute to hearing loss as the years progress. There is a bit of concern that it is only happening in your right ear. Usually when you are exposed to noise repeatedly over the years, hearing loss will occur in both ears.

If there is hearing loss in one ear, it could be because of other reasons other than your exposure to farm equipment noise. For example, if you are a hunter and have used a gun repeatedly over the years, that could cause the hearing in your right ear to be reduced. Or perhaps some sort of trauma to your right ear may have happened in your life that is resulting in hearing loss. There are also more serious conditions that cause hearing loss in one ear.

My suggestion is that you make an appointment with your primary care provider to determine whether there is a medical condition that may be causing your hearing loss. You could have a buildup of ear wax or an infection, which can be treated by your physician. If your primary care provider cannot diagnose the cause of the hearing loss, your physician will refer you to a medical ear specialist, who should have an audiologist on staff to test your hearing. If it is determined that there is permanent hearing loss, you should be fitted with hearing aids.

Disclaimer: The content of this article is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Do not stop or delay seeking treatment because of something you read in this article. Further, the views or opinions expressed in this article are for informational purposes only and do not necessarily represent those of St. Luke’s. Reliance on any information provided by St. Luke’s, St. Luke’s employees or others supplying information for the column at the invitation of St. Luke’s is solely at your own risk.

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