Learn how hearing loss affects more than just communication.
How Hearing Works
Inside the human ear is 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 of the 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.
Hearing and Brain Health
Approximately 48 million people in the United States have some degree of hearing loss. Hearing is connected to more than just communication. The brain relies on hearing function to receive the proper sound signals it needs to stay active and healthy.
When left untreated, hearing loss can affect speech comprehension, energy levels, social activity, and brain health. It’s important to manage hearing loss at the first signs in order to preserve your cognitive abilities.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Progressive hearing loss is the most common type of loss because it occurs gradually. For this reason, it can be difficult to recognize you are having trouble hearing until it’s too late. If you have noticed any combination of the following, then you should have your hearing checked.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are three main types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural, and mixed.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a blockage preventing sound from transmitting from the outer and middle ear to the inner ear. Causes include ear infection, clogged ears due to impacted earwax, fluid in the middle ear, or ruptured eardrum. This type of hearing loss typically requires treatment from a medical doctor.
Sensorineural hearing loss is when damage to the hair cells of the inner ear or to the hearing nerve has occurred. This affects how sound is transmitted from the ear to the brain. Causes include age, genetics, ototoxic medications, prolonged noise exposure, or underlying health conditions. This type of hearing loss may feel like your ear is muffled and sounds are unclear. Treatment often includes wearing hearing aids.
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural losses. For treatment, first the conductive portion would need to be addressed by a physician – or through the removal of earwax – and the sensorineural portion can be managed with hearing aids.
Around 50 million people in the U.S. experience tinnitus to some degree. Almost everyone will experience tinnitus at some point in their life as the symptoms can vary greatly. For some people, they only hear the phantom sounds occasionally and for a few seconds. Other people may experience permanent tinnitus which can be debilitating and affect concentration, sleep, and quality of life.
Individuals who experience constant tinnitus often times notice increased mental health struggles. Tinnitus and depression have been shown to be connected because of the negative impact it can have on your well-being.
If your quality of life has been affected by ringing in the ears, we can help you. We offer tinnitus masking hearing aids that can play soothing sounds in your ears to distract your brain from the symptoms of tinnitus. Although hearing aids won’t stop ringing in the ears completely, they can greatly help you.