Education on hearing loss, health, and tinnitus.
How Hearing Works
How we hear involves a complex system. It’s important to understand how the ears work and translate sound in order to properly diagnose hearing loss and find a suitable treatment option. How we hear is broken into a few parts.
First sound is transmitted through the air as sound waves. The sound waves are collected by the outer ear and sent down the ear canal to the eardrum.
These sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate, setting the tiny bones in the middle ear into motion.
The motion of these tiny bones causes fluid in the inner ear, cochlea, to move.
The movement of this fluid in the inner ear causes the hair cells in the cochlea to bend and change into electrical impulses.
These electrical impulses are transmitted to the hearing nerve and sent up to the brain where they are interpreted into sound.
What is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss makes it difficult to hear certain sounds and consonants in one or both ears. Millions of Americans have hearing loss to some degree. There are many causes of hearing loss, including loud noise exposure, age, genetics, ototoxic medication, head or ear trauma, and underlying health conditions.
When left untreated, hearing loss can have a negative impact on your mental health, communication, and overall well-being. If you don’t treat your hearing loss, you may begin to experience difficulty recognizing speech, you’ll feel unusually tired, and you may experience a decline in your cognitive abilities. The brain needs your hearing to stay active and healthy. If you suspect you have hearing loss, it’s important to schedule a hearing test right away.
Signs of Hearing Loss
The signs of hearing loss can be subtle and may emerge slowly. If you have experienced a combination of the following, it’s time for a hearing exam.
You constantly ask people to repeat themselves
You have difficulty following the conversation
It sounds like people are mumbling
Women and children’s voices are harder to hear
It’s difficult to hear when there is background noise
You hear a ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
If you have experienced a sudden loss of hearing and you can’t hear out of one or both ears, you should contact us immediately. Sudden sensorineural hearing loss can be the result of loud noise exposure and can permanently damage your hearing.
Types of Hearing Loss
Not all hearing losses can be corrected through the use of hearing aids. There are four main types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, mixed, and noise induced.
Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss means there is a problem with how the ear conducts sound through the outer and middle ear to the inner ear. This is usually due to a blockage from earwax impaction, ear infection, or fluid in the middle ear.
Sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is the result of damage to the hair cells inside the ear and is often the result of age, genetics, ototoxic medications, or head trauma. While this type of hearing loss is irreversible, it does respond well to hearing aids.
Mixed hearing loss
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural.
Noise induced hearing loss
Noise induced hearing loss is a type of sensorineural hearing loss resulting from loud noise exposure. This could be due to repeated exposure to loud sounds or from a one-time impact blast that damaged your hearing. Noise induced hearing loss also responds well to hearing aids.
Do you hear a buzzing, ringing, humming, or whistling sound in your ears? You are not alone. These phantom noises are known as tinnitus sounds, or more commonly “ringing in the ears.” Tinnitus is not itself a disease, but rather a symptom of another issue. Tinnitus can be caused by hearing loss, loud noise exposure, certain medications, stress, or Meniere’s disease.
The symptoms of tinnitus can be debilitating, as some people experience these phantom sounds on a constant basis. If tinnitus is disrupting your quality of life, contact us. Our audiologists can perform a hearing check and test for tinnitus. We offer a few treatment options including:
- Tinnitus masking hearing aids
- Tinnitus retraining therapy