Hearing Loss

Hearing Loss Informational Links

“Untreated Hearing Loss Linked to Depression, Social Isolation in Seniors” Read More

“Hearing Loss and Dementia Linked In Study” Read More

“Hearing Loss Linked to Accelerated Brain Tissue Loss” Read More

Hearing Loss Association of America www.hearingloss.org

The Better Hearing Institute www.betterhearing.org

How do we hear?

The ear is divided into three parts.

1. The outer ear includes the pinna and the ear canal. They collect sound waves and channel them through the ear canal to the eardrum.

2. The middle ear transfers the sound wave from the eardrum across three small bones, called ossicles. The last ossicle is attached to the sense organ of hearing, in the inner ear, called the cochlea.

3. The inner ear contains the cochlea, the organs of balance, and the auditory nerve. The hair cells inside the cochlea stimulates the auditory nerve. The auditory nerve takes the sound signal to the brain where it is interpreted.

Why do we need two ears?

We have two ears (binaural hearing) for several reasons.

1. Improved detection of soft speech

2. Increased intelligibility in background noise

3. The ability to localize sound

What type of hearing loss do I have?

There are three types of hearing loss.

1. A conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a problem with how sound transfers through the outer or middle ear. Common causes include middle ear infections and a buildup of ear wax. Most conductive hearing losses can be treated.

2. A sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear system. This type of hearing loss involves the reduction of overall volume of sound and often reduces the ability to understand speech clearly. Common causes include exposure to loud noise and loss associated with aging. Generally, this type of hearing loss cannot be medically corrected.

3. A mixed hearing loss occurs when a person has both a conductive and a sensorineural hearing loss simultaneously.

How much hearing loss do I have?

Hearing loss can be categorized by degree of hearing loss.

1. Mild hearing loss creates difficulty in challenging listening situations (noisy environments, distance speech). People with mild hearing loss rarely have difficulty in quiet. Some people with mild hearing loss do benefit from hearing aids.

2. Moderate hearing loss creates difficulty understanding speech in all normal conversational situations. This category of hearing loss can obtain significant benefit from the use of hearing aids.

3. Severe hearing loss creates the inability to hear normal conversation at all. This level of hearing loss can be isolating without the use of hearing aids that restore the audibility of conversational speech.

4. Profound hearing loss creates an inability to hear conversational speech, even with hearing aids. Hearing aids increase the awareness of environmental sounds.

Degree of hearing loss can also change depending upon the frequency. A high frequency hearing loss is common. With this pattern of hearing loss the low frequencies are usually normal and the high frequencies have hearing loss. Most of these patients report a lack of clarity in speech or that speech sounds mumbled.

How do I know if I could benefit from hearing aids?

If you sometimes say or think any of the following you could benefit from hearing aids:

  • I need to turn up the television even though those around me say it’s too loud.
  • Everyone mumbles. I can’t understand what they are saying if they aren’t looking at me.
  • It is difficult to understand in groups of people. It is as if all the sounds melt together.
  • Sometimes I misunderstand questions and I am not confident in what was said.
  • I find myself asking “What?” often in a conversation.

What are some symptoms of hearing loss?

  • Speech sounds muffled
  • Miss hearing some sounds in the environment
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Difficulty hearing and understanding conversation in background noise