Hearing is important in almost every aspect of life. Communicating with family and friends, listening to your favorite music, hearing the class lecture or business meeting presentation, and enjoying the sounds of nature all depend on good hearing.
Approximately 20% of the United States’ population is affected by hearing loss. Only arthritis and heart disease patients outnumber those with compromised hearing, making hearing loss the third most frequently reported medical condition in America. Fortunately, current advancements in hearing technology offer hope and assistance in restoring hearing to normal levels.
How Hearing Works
When sound waves enter the outer ear, they are directed into the ear canal. The funnel-like contour of the ear canal amplifies the sound waves. Vibrations are created by the sound waves hitting the eardrum, causing movement of the tiny ossicular bones called the anvil, the hammer, and the stirrup.
The ossicular bones carry the vibrations through the middle ear area to the membrane dividing the middle and inner ear known as the “oval window.” The spiral-shaped inner ear, the cochlea, is thickly lined with microscopic hair cells that change sound waves to electrical signals. Nerve networks transmit the signals to the brain for interpretation.
Hearing loss often happens when the tiny hairs in the inner ear break or bend, thus decreasing the sound waves’ conduction to electrical signals. Heredity and over-exposure to loud noises are believed to be the most common causes.
Types of Hearing Loss
Doctors generally divide hearing loss into two main categories, sensorineural and conductive. Some people have a combination of the two.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss
The primary cause of hearing loss is caused by problems with the auditory nerves or in the cochlea. Deterioration of the cilia, the tiny hairs that line the cochlea, hinder the transmission of sound to the auditory nerve and finally to the brain. Around 90% of all difficulties with hearing are in this category.
This condition is common in older people whose hearing has declined over time. While there is no medical treatment for this kind of hearing loss, much can be done to improve hearing aids and other interventions.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss involves the anatomy and physiology of the ear itself. An obstruction can prevent sound waves from the outer or middle ear from reaching the inner ear and being transferred to the brain.
Some conditions that may cause obstruction include:
- Middle ear fluid collection
- Ear wax accumulation
- Abnormal growth of middle ear bones
- Eardrum perforation
It is possible for a person to have both kinds of hearing loss (known as mixed hearing loss), such as age-related deterioration, along with a blockage.
Congenital Hearing Loss
A baby may be born with hearing loss due to genetic factors or trauma during pregnancy or childbirth. Early intervention is crucial to keep the child from experiencing developmental delays.
Impact of Untreated Hearing Loss
The consequences of untreated hearing loss can be more far-reaching than frustration and inconvenience. Some of the most common are:
- Decreased memory: Extra effort required to listen may reduce memory and comprehension
- A decline in mental sharpness caused by reduced stimulation of the brain
- Increased risk of dementia based on the degree of hearing loss
- Decreased quality of social life; Conversations not as enjoyable
- Communication fatigue leads to anxiety
- Income/earning potential impacted
Contact Us Today!
Protect your precious gift of hearing with a free hearing evaluation at a Beltone Dallas Fort Worth. Our hearing specialists can diagnose your specific hearing challenges and provide personalized care just for you.