What Is Hearing Loss?
How You Hear
There are three major components to the ear: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. Sound waves travel through the outer ear, contacting the eardrum and creating vibrations. As vibrations travel to the inner ear, the eardrum and three tiny bones of the middle ear amplify them. The vibrations are then sent through fluid in a snail-shaped part of the inner ear called the cochlea. Attached to nerve cells in the cochlea are microscopic hairs that help convert sound vibrations into electrical signals that are sent to the brain. Your brain converts these messages into audible sounds.
You and Hearing Loss
Almost 50% of people in the United States age 65 and older develop some degree of hearing loss. However, hearing loss doesn’t just affect older populations but can affect younger individuals as well. Those whose lifestyle includes chronic exposure to loud noises (guns or heavy machinery), a history of smoking or a family history of hearing loss may have difficulty understanding sounds. You can't reverse most types of hearing loss. However, you and your audiologist can take steps to improve what you hear and understand.
Types of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is defined as one of three types:
1) Conductive hearing loss is caused by a mechanical problem in the outer or middle ear or an obstruction in the ear canal, such as earwax that blocks sound from getting to the eardrum. It can be permanent, but more often it is temporary and can be medically treated. For example, earwax build-up can be removed by your local audiologist.
2) Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. It is permanent and can be caused by many different factors that damage tiny hair-like cells in the inner ear. The auditory nerve carries important information about the loudness, pitch, and meaning of sounds to the brain. Most adults with hearing loss have sensorineural loss. Sensorineural hearing loss means difficulty understanding sound or speech even though it is loud enough to hear.
3) Mixed hearing loss is when a person has both sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
Turning the Perceived Hearing Loss Stigma Inside Out
The perceived stigma associated with hearing loss is real and deters many people who feel they may be experiencing hearing loss from seeking help. However, let’s consider this – is your hearing loss more obvious with you wearing a discreet pair of hearing devices or with you saying, “What?" or “Can you repeat that?” or your constant absence from activities because you are struggling to participate in and understand conversations? A hearing impairment doesn't just affect one person, but family and friends. Today’s hearing devices are not what they used to be – they are sleek, have several style/color options and incorporate advanced technology such as Bluetooth connectivity to your devices to open the door for you to once again engage in the world around you.
Hearing Loss: Fact vs. Fiction
There’s a lot of information out there about hearing loss. In fact, there’s so much, it’s easy to get overwhelmed. What’s true, and what’s not? As hearing care professionals, it’s our job to give you the knowledge you need to make the right decisions about your hearing health. Today, we’re going to take a closer look at some common hearing loss myths – and the real truth behind them. Let’s get started!
Myth: Hearing loss only affects a small amount of the population.
The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) reports that about 37.5 million Americans aged 18 and over experience some trouble hearing. And, based on standard hearing tests, one in eight people aged 12 and up has hearing loss in both ears. This is no small number!
Myth: Only older people have hearing loss.
Hearing loss can affect people of all ages. Although it’s true that you are more likely to experience hearing loss as you grow older, especially over age 50, any generation can have trouble with their hearing. Non-age-related factors that often lead to hearing loss include exposure to loud noises, infections or physical trauma, medication interactions, and other issues that only a professional can diagnose.
Myth: I’ll notice if I’m losing my hearing.
Unfortunately, often we’re the last to realize we’re experiencing hearing loss because it tends to happen gradually over time. Very few of us wake up in the morning and realize our hearing isn’t quite what it used to be. Typically, if you’re not getting regular hearing tests, you may not notice these small changes. Are you asking people to repeat themselves? Finding yourself turning up the volume on the TV, radio, or phone? Avoiding noisy places? These might be signs of hearing loss.
Myth: I can just buy some hearing aids online.
You may be tempted to simply turn to online shopping to solve your hearing loss issues. However, when you purchase hearing aids off the internet or from an infomercial, you may not get the same results or personal care that you can with a hearing care professional. Your local audiologist knows how to fit and fine-tune your hearing aid so it works with your personal hearing needs – and your hearing needs only. Plus, they understand and plan for your future hearing care, providing the unique service you can only get from someone who knows you.
Myth: Hearing loss doesn’t affect my overall health.
According to experts at Johns Hopkins Medicine, even mild hearing loss can increase your risk of physical and cognitive issues such as balance, falling, and even dementia. Mild hearing loss can double the risk of dementia, and moderate hearing loss can triple it. Plus, hearing loss makes it harder for the brain to process sound, leaving it (and you) tired and stressed out. Find out more about hearing health and cognitive decline from our friends at Oticon.
Hearing Care is Health Care™
When we say “hearing care is health care,” what we mean is that good hearing health can really improve your overall well-being and quality of life. That’s why our practice offers Oticon’s life-changing BrainHearingTM technology. Hearing aids with BrainHearing technology gives your brain the information it needs to make sense of sound – letting you process and understand speech and sounds more easily and efficiently.
Contact Us Today to
Schedule a Consultation
Here’s what to expect during your one-on-one consultation with Dr. Luke Emberlin:
- Discuss your lifestyle, your concerns, and important things in your life where hearing is breaking down the experience.
- Undergo an audiogram or hearing test.
- Discuss the results of the hearing test and how hearing devices can benefit you.
If you are not sure whether you would like to make a purchase, we can provide you with a set of temporary hearing aids for a trial period. We will then schedule another appointment for you to return and discuss the experience and whether you want to proceed with purchasing your own pair.
The severity of your hearing loss, among other things, will play a role in determining which of our recommendations is best for you. If we are unable to treat your hearing loss ourselves, we will provide you with a recommendation for a doctor. The first step toward addressing hearing loss is getting a complete hearing diagnostic exam. Make an appointment for your exam as soon as possible.