Sound is vibration and has to travel through the structures of the ear to the brain in order for hearing to occur. Here's a quick overview of the hearing process:
- Sound, vibrations in the air, travel down the ear canal to the eardrum.
- These vibrations in the air cause the eardrum to vibrate, which in turn causes the three little bones in the middle ear to vibrate.
- 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.
- 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 isn't working properly, hearing loss may occur. There are three main types of hearing loss:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 in learning to talk and socialize with others. This can cause feelings of isolation and low self-esteem, which can lead to behavioral problems.
- Adults: Untreated hearing loss in adults can increase isolation, depression, stress, dementia and diminished job performance. Brain function can also deteriorate faster.
What's the next step?
If you think you or your child may have hearing loss, request an appointment below or call 515-223-4368.