Hearing and Hearing Loss
Hearing is a complex sense that involves the ears’ ability to detect sounds and the brain’s ability to interpret those sounds.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss can occur anywhere along the auditory pathway from the outer ear and middle ear (conductive hearing loss); inner ear or cochlear (sensorineral heariong loss); or in combination (mixed hearing loss).
Central hearing loss can occur as a result of damage to the auditory nerve or the pathways to the brain where sound is interpreted.
Sensorineural hearing losses:
- Presbecusis (normal ageing process)
- Excessive noise exposure
- Head injuries
- Ototoxic drugs
- Viruses such as mumps or measles
- Diseases like meningitis and Meniere’s disease
- Inherited hearing loss
- Birth trauma, premature birth, lack of oxygen at birth
Conductive hearing losses:
- Impacted wax or foreign objects
- Outer ear infection (ottitis externa)
- Middle ear infection (sometimes termed glue ear)
- Perforated eardrum (due to an accident or chronic middle ear infections)
- Complete or partial closure of the ear canal
Mixed hearing loss occurs when there is a problem with the inner ear and either of the outer or middle ear.
Signs and Symptoms of Hearing Loss
- When you often ask for repetition because people are “mumbling”
- Difficulty hearing conversations, especially in groups or in noisy environments
- Avoiding social situations as you can become frustrated and “mishear”
- The television and radio volume is set very high
- Depression is a common symptom
- Ringing, hissing, or buzzing noise in your ears (tinnitus)
- Blocked feeling often associated with pain or itching
- Feeling dizzy or off-balance (acoustic neuroma or Meneire’s disease)
Getting used to Hearing Aids
It takes time getting used to hearing aids. There are sounds that you have to “train your brain” to hear again and there is the adjustment of wearing the hearing aids in your ears.
- Regular use of the hearing aid is needed to become used to inserting the hearing aid and to become familiar with new sounds
- Start with short periods, maybe two hours a day to begin, and gradually progress to being able to use the hearing aid throughout the day
- Begin in quieter environments and progress to noisier environments
- Your voice may sound different and this may take a while to get used to
- Persevere to obtain maximum benefit of the hearing aid