// What You Should Know

Resources on Hearing Loss

Understanding Hearing Loss

So what causes hearing loss to happen? The human ear is a remarkably complex sound-analyzing system. It is capable of detecting sounds over an incredibly wide range of intensities and frequencies. A problem with any part of the system can cause a loss of hearing.

We usually describe the ear in three main sections: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear serves as a sound collector. Sound vibrations cause movement of the eardrum which is connected to a chain of three tiny bones in the middle ear. The middle ear intensifies the energy of the sound vibrations and delivers them to the cochlea in the inner ear.

The cochlea is the actual organ of hearing. Inside the cochlea are thousands of hair-like cells. These hearing cells are sensitive to different frequencies and intensities of sound.

Sound vibrations entering the cochlea cause the hair cells to generate electrochemical signals. The hair cells are connected to hearing nerve fibres. The electrochemical signals travel through the hearing nerve fibres to the brain and the brain recognizes them as sounds.

TYPES OF HEARING LOSS

There are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed.

A conductive hearing loss occurs when a problem in the outer ear or middle ear interferes with the transmission of sound. For example, a large build-up of earwax, infections or growths in the outer ear, or holes in the eardrum can interfere with the transmission of sound. Medical intervention can often correct or improve this type of hearing loss. When that is not possible, hearing aids can usually help.

Sensorineural hearing loss is the term used to describe problems in the inner ear, either in the cochlea or auditory nerve. There are many causes for sensorineural hearing loss but the most common one is deterioration of the hair cells in the cochlea due to aging and/or exposure to prolonged loud sounds. 90% of hearing losses are sensorineural. Medical intervention rarely helps this kind of problem. Fortunately, hearing aids can help.

Mixed hearing loss is a third type of hearing loss. It is simply a combination of conductive and sensorineural problems. Many people with mixed hearing loss are also able to benefit from hearing aids.

Main causes of hearing loss:

  • The natural aging process

  • Exposure to loud or constant noise

  • Ototoxic medications

  • Infections, illness, or birth defects

  • Hereditary

  • Traumatic injury to the head or ear

PROTECT YOUR HEARING

In today's technologically advanced world, hazardous noise levels have become part of our daily life. Off the job, our hearing is assaulted by noise from traffic, construction, and lawnmowers.

 

On the job, noise is generated by office or industrial equipment, machinery, and power tools. Even recreational activities such as hunting, snowmobiling, and listening to loud music can affect your hearing.

 

Constant exposure to loud noises can damage the hair cells in the inner ear, which are critical to hearing. Once the hair cells are damaged, they cannot be repaired.

 

Noise-induced hearing loss is preventable. Avoid harmful noise levels. If you have to shout to be heard or if speech sounds muffled after leaving a noisy area, then the level is too high.

 

It is recommended that hearing protection be worn in noisy situations at home and on the job. Custom earplugs are available from our clinic and provide good protection.

 

We sell a variety of custom earplugs designed to protect your hearing while at work.

 

Musician earplugs are designed to protect hearing while preserving all the subtleties and richness of music. Music and speech reproduced through these earplugs sounds exactly as it would in an ear without an earplug, but at a lower (safer) loudness level.

HEARING AIDS

Hearing aids have come a long way over the last number of years. Like computers, smartphones, and most other high-tech devices, hearing aids have advanced significantly in just the past several years. Thanks to more detailed research, faster processing speeds, new features, and smarter design, today’s hearing aids are definitely NOT your grandfather’s hearing aids!

 

Today’s hearing aids are like mini computers. The revolution in hearing aids occurred about a decade ago when the transition from analog to digital technology took place. Where analog technology amplified all sounds equally, digital technology made hearing aids much smarter – giving them the ability to amplify meaningful sounds (such as speech), while reducing unwanted background noise.

 

The best of today’s hearing aids are essentially a mini computer, with the capability to:

  • Eliminate unwanted background noise

  • Virtually eliminate feedback (buzzing and whistling)

  • Adjust automatically to your listening environment

  • Work with your phones

  • Stream sound from your TV, computer, MP3 player and phone