Learn more about the causes and signs of hearing loss.
How Do We Hear?
The hearing system is complex. How we hear and understand sound 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 brain and processed as information.
Types of Hearing Loss
There are three main types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed.
Sensorineural hearing loss affects the most people and is the result of damage to the hair cells in the ear responsible for hearing or to the hearing nerve. The most common cause of sensorineural hearing loss is age, but it can also be due to genetics, head trauma, loud noise exposure, ototoxic medications, or underlying health conditions. This type of hearing loss can be successfully managed with hearing aids.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a blockage preventing sound from travelling from the outer and middle ear to the inner ear. Causes of conductive hearing loss include earwax impaction, fluid in the middle ear, ear infection, or ruptured eardrum. To treat this type of hearing loss you will need to visit a physician or ENT, which we can refer you to.
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive losses. Treatment will include visiting a specialist for the conductive portion and wearing hearing aids to manage the sensorineural portion.
Signs of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss often occurs gradually, so it may be difficult to recognize the signs right away. If you have noticed any combination of the following, then it’s time for a hearing exam.
Hearing and General Health
Hearing plays a critical role in overall health and well-being. We rely on our hearing ability to effectively communicate, maintain our sense of balance, and to have healthy cognitive function. When you can’t hear well due to hearing loss, you may experience negative effects. Untreated hearing loss has been connected to an increase in falls, feelings of depression, fatigue, and cognitive decline.
It’s important to manage hearing loss at the first signs so you can preserve your speech and cognitive abilities.