According the World Health Organization (WHO) that over 5% of the world’s population or 466 million people have disabling hearing loss (432 million adults and 34 million children). By the year 2050 that 1 in every 10 people or over 900 million people will have hearing loss. One in three people in the US between the ages of 65 and 74 years old have hearing loss. So the older you get the more you are prone to hearing problems.
In this article I want to give you the straight facts on hearing loss or impairment. It is a fact that as we get older our hearing gets weaker due to exposure to a lot of environmental factors and others which we will explore in detail in this article.
But first let us go back to the school of hearing and find out how sound is transmitted, definition of hearing loss, types of hearing losses and causes, signs and symptoms, complications, prevention, treatment and the question is do I need hearing aids?
At the end of this article I have recommended hearing aids that you may like to purchase after consultation with an audiologist who can best assess you. I will take you for ride for now. But first watch the video below how sound waves are transmitted to the brain.
How Sound is Transmitted.
So one afternoon you decide to buy a pair of Apple iPods those earbuds you insert in your outer ear to look cool and listen to jazz music from your cell phone. You ask yourself how in the world the sound is transmitted to my brain?
Well sound is transmitted from the outer ear to the ear canal where it is transmitted to the tympanic membrane (eardrum) which it causes it to vibrate. From there sound travels to the ossicles (malleus, incus and stapes) and by the way these 3 are the tiniest bones in the body just in case someone asks you. The sound sets these 3 tiny bones into motion which then causes the fluid in the cochlea (looks like a snail which is the organ of hearing) to also move. The movement of fluid causes the hair cells in the cochlea to bend creating an electrical signal which sends it to the auditory nerve (8th cranial nerve) which sends it to the brain to be interpreted as sound.
But things can disturb the transmission of sound which as you get older become harder and harder to hear. Now you want to throw away those nice expensive Apple iPods because now you have hearing loss. What is wrong did I do wrong or what is wrong with me? Well keep reading.
Definition of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is when your ability to hear is reduced to the point where it affects your activities of daily living like talking to people, cooking, shopping or just hearing a sermon on TV. Hearing loss can affect your ability to hear everyday conversations. Age related hearing loss that occurs as we grow older is termed Presbycusis. It is common among the elderly.
Questions that can be asked are if the person feels embarrassed when meeting new people, if you ask people to repeat what they say or when you go to the movies you have trouble hearing what is being said? If the person answered yes to these questions then he or she has hearing impairment. Among the elderly it can cause anxiety, depression, dementia and abandonment. Hearing loss can occur in one ear or both.
Types of Hearing Loss and Causes
A. Sensorineural Hearing Loss
About 95% of hearing loss falls into this category. This happens in the inner ear. The problem here is with the hair cells on the cochlea and not the auditory nerve. Hair cells in cochlea flex and move when sounds enters the ear. Hair cells transmit sound tom the auditory nerve to the brain causing you to hear. If hair cells do not work right you will have hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss can often result in difficulty understanding sound or speech even though it is loud enough to hear. This type of hearing loss is permanent. You will need a hearing aid here.
- Loud music or explosions.
- Head Trauma
- Acoustic Neuroma
- Ototoxic drugs
- Pregnancy complications or during birth
B. Conductive Hearing Loss
This happens when there is loss caused by something that stops sounds from getting through the outer or middle ear. This type of hearing loss can often be treated with medicine or surgery.
- Malformation of outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear structure
- Fluid in the middle ear from colds
- Ear infection (otitis media – an infection of the middle ear in which an accumulation of fluid may interfere with the movement of the eardrum and ossicles)
- Poor Eustachian tube function
- Perforated eardrum
- Benign tumors
- Impacted earwax
- Infection in the ear canal
- Foreign object in the ear
- Otosclerosis (a hereditary disorder in which a bony growth forms around a small bone in the middle ear, preventing it from vibrating when stimulated by sound)
C. Mixed Hearing Loss
Mixed hearing loss is caused by a combination of conductive damage in the outer or middle ear and sensorineural damage in the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve.
Signs and Symptoms
- Muffled Speech
- Asking the other person to speak slower and louder
- Needing to turn up the volume of the TV and radio
- Ending conversations
- Withdrawing from social events
- Watching people’s lips instead of making eye contact
- Difficulty hearing on the phone
- Finding it hard to stay in pace with the conversation going on
- Feeling tired and stressed out due difficulty listening to a conversation
While age related hearing loss is unavoidable it can affect someones quality of life leading to depression, isolation, dementia, cognitive impairment and decline, social withdrawal. Medically it can lead to high blood pressure, muscle tension, headaches, increased stress and fatigue. Hearing loss can impact safety on the job and at home.
If you suspect you have hearing loss consult with your physician as soon as possible who can refer you to an audiologist who can do a hearing test and fit you with a hearing aid. Do not neglect as this it may become worse over time. This includes adults and children.
There are so many ways to protect your hearing. The best thing to do is to be proactive before further complications occur. Early intervention might do more good than harm.
- Avoid loud noises – turn down the volume, stay away from loudspeakers, power tools, airplane engine noise
- Wear protective ear plugs or earmuffs – can reduce noise from 15 to 30 decibels (intensity of sound) or you can wear both for double the protection
- Avoid smoking – more likely to get hearing loss
- Remove earwax (Cerumen) – too much earwax can muffle the sound
- Check drugs that can affect hearing – antibiotics, aspirin and cancer drugs.
- Get a hearing test – ringing in the ears (tinnitus), loud noise in job environment (airport or factory)
Hearing Aids – if there is evidence of damage to your hair cells in the inner ear. I have 4 hearing aid recommendations for you below. Just click on the image and you will see the features but remember to consult first with your audiologist to pick the one that is best fitted for you and lifestyle.
Earwax removal – your doctor can remove the excessive buildup with a suction. Do not use cotton buds as you may push the earwax more deeper.
Cochlear Implants – this is for people with severe hearing loss. It bypasses the working parts of your ear and directly stimulates the auditory nerve. This a joint effort between an ENT (Eye, Nose and Throat) doctor and an audiologist.
Surgical procedures – fluid in the middle ear can be drained out and aerated by making a an incision in the eardrum (Myringotomy) and inserting a plastic tube through it. Over time the tube will fall out of the ear canal.
Do I Need Hearing Aids?
Now the question is from the beginning is Do I need hearing aids? The audiologist can best determine by doing a audiometry test to test the severity of your hearing loss. Today there are many types of hearing aids available in the market. They can cost from a few hundred dollars to thousands of dollars. There are hearing aids that uses bluetooth technology and the others are analog types.
It is best to find out what activities you will be relying on to use hearing aids. If you are in a quiet and soothing environment then consider a low cost hearing aid. But if you are high tech then consider bluetooth technology that can stream sound from your TV, radio, cell phone or tablet to your hearing aid. The choice is up to you with consultation with your audiologist.
By the way I recommend the first left image you see below. It is the Eargo Neo HiFi which their newest model. This hearing aid is inserted inside the ear canal and it is virtually invisible, rechargeable and has the best sound quality. It eliminates the behind the ear bulky traditional hearing aid. So click here to find out more.
Thanks and congratulations getting this far to read my article. I hope I have educated you. If you have any questions or comments I will be more than happy to get back to you. Just comment below. Cheers to a prosperous and happy living. Enjoy and have fun !