Hearing Loss Explained

How does normal hearing work?

Sound is vibration and has to travel through the structures of the ear to the brain in order for hearing to occur.Explained image

1. Sound, vibrations in the air, travel down the ear canal to the eardrum.
2. These vibrations in the air cause the eardrum to vibrate, which in turn causes the three little bones in the middle ear to vibrate.
3. The bones transfer the vibrations to the inner ear or cochlea. This fluid-filled structure houses tiny hair cells that convert this vibration into electric signals.
4. The electric hearing signals are sent to the brain via the auditory nerve, and the brain interprets the signals as meaningful information.

Types of hearing loss

If any part of the ear is not working properly, hearing loss may occur. There are three main types of hearing loss:

1. Conductive hearing loss is due to problems with the outer or middle ear, such as a hole in the eardrum, middle ear infection or other condition affecting the middle ear bones. Depending on the severity of hearing loss, treatments for this type of hearing loss may include medication, surgery, hearing aids or a Baha system.

2. Sensorineural hearing loss is due to problems with the inner ear. This is usually caused by the aging process or by noise exposure, but some people are born with this type of hearing loss. Most people with this type of hearing loss report that they can hear but that they don’t always understand what people are saying. Depending on the severity of hearing loss, treatments for this type of hearing loss may include hearing aids or a cochlear implant. There is no medical or surgical treatment available to fix this type of hearing loss.

3. Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. This is caused by damage to the outer or middle ear as well as the inner ear. Depending on the severity of hearing loss, treatments for this type of hearing loss may include medication, surgery, hearing aids or a Baha system.

Impact of untreated hearing loss

Children: Untreated hearing loss in children can lead to difficulties learning to talk, learn and socialize with others. This can cause feelings of isolation and low self-esteem, which can lead to behavioral problems.1
Adults: Untreated hearing loss in adults can increase isolation, depression, stress, dementia and diminished job performance.2,3 Brain function can also deteriorate faster. 4

What is the next step?

If you think you or your child may have a hearing loss, request an appointment online for an evaluation or call 515-223-4368.

 

References:
1. Effects of Hearing Loss on Development. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) [Internet]. 2013 [Cited 2013 July]. Available from: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/disorders/effects.htm
2. Kochkin, S. Consequences of Hearing Loss. Better Hearing Institute [Internet]. 2013 [Cited 2013 July]. Available from: http://www.betterhearing.org/hearing_loss/consequences_of_hearing_loss/index.cfm
3. Kochkin, S. & Rogin, C. Quantifying the Obvious: The Impact of Hearing Aids on Quality of Life. The Hearing Review. 2000 Jan;7(1):8-34.
4. Frank R. Lin et al. Hearing Loss and Cognitive Decline in Older Adults. JAMA Internal Medicine. 2013;173(4):293-299. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.1868.