About 1 in 10 people in our country, or about 28 million, are hearing impaired. Hearing loss ranks second only to arthritis as the health problem that most inhibits the functioning of people aged 65 and older. . Approximately 60 percent of hearing impaired people are under the age of 65. Though hearing loss affects all ages, it becomes more prevalent as we grow older. About a quarter of those between 65 and 74 have significant hearing loss.
As this generation of baby boomers reach middle-age, a time when hearing loss frequently becomes more noticeable, they face concerns about what to do about their hearing loss. Boomers may have more hearing problems at an earlier age than previous generations. Their noisy lifestyle, with prolonged exposure to rock concerts, loud stereos, city traffic, power tools, and lawn mowers, may take its toll on their ears. Hearing professionals confirm that they are seeing more younger clients seeking help with hearing loss.
Most hearing loss can be helped – but not cured – by hearing aids. Yet most people with hearing loss don’t take advantage of this help. Almost everyone with a hearing loss hears better with a hearing aid, yet only 20 percent of those who need a hearing aid have one.
The Ability to Hear...
The ability to hear is essential for both the fulfillment of individual potential and the enjoyment of life. As those who benefit from the use of a hearing instrument can testify, you will en joy a "new life" with your new hearing instrument. Having a complete understanding of how your hearing works, and then knowing your options for hearing instrumentation, will help you utilize your hearing instruments to the fullest potential.
How Our Hearing Works
As sound passes through each ear, it sets off a chain reaction that could be compared to the toppling of a row of dominoes. First, the outer ear collects pressure (or sound) waves, and funnels them through the ear canal. These vibrations strike the eardrum, then the delicate bones of the middle ear conduct the vibrations to the fluid in the inner ear. This stimulates the tiny nerve endings, called hair cells, which transform the vibrations into electro-chemical impulses. The impulses travel to the brain where they are deciphered into sounds you recognize.
For most people, hearing loss is so gradual that it is hardly noticed - and is usually detected first by family, friends, or a hearing test. You should suspect a hearing loss if you...
- have been exposed to high noise levels, such as tractors, machinery in factories, firearms or power tools, without adequate ear protection
- feel growing nervous tension, irritability or fatigue from the effort to hear
- are inclined to believe that "every body mumbles" or "people don't speak as clearly as they used to"
- find yourself straining to understand conversations in social settings or at work
- frequently misunderstand or need to have things repeated
- find yourself watching people's faces intently when you are listening
- increase the television or radio volume to a point that others complain of the loudness
- have a family history of hearing loss
- have diabetes, heart, thyroid or circulation problems
- have been exposed to ototoxic drugs or medications
- have reoccurring ear infections, constant ringing in the ears, or dizzines
Do you have a hearing loss?
- Do you hear sounds but have trouble understanding the words?
- Do high-pitched sounds such a women’s or children’s voices, telephone dial tones "fade" or "disappear"?
- Is it difficult to hear or understand other in public places such as restaurants, theaters, stores, at your church, or any place where the background noise level is increased?
- Does it seem to you that people mumble more than they used to?
- Do you often need to ask others to repeat themselves?
- Do people ask you to turn down the volume of the TV or radio?
- Do you strain to listen?
- Do you turn one ear towards a speaker to hear better?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, your hearing may be impaired.
Types of Hearing LossA number of conditions can exist that cause a disruption in the hearing process and lead to hearing loss. The two most common types of hearing loss are sensori-neural and conductive.
- Sensori-Neural Hearing Loss Sensori-Neural, or "nerve" hearing loss, results from damage to the hair cells, nerve fibers or both, in the inner ear. This is the most common type of hearing loss and is often caused by aging or prolonged exposure to noise. It also can be caused by high fever, birth defects and certain drugs. People with sensori-neural hearing loss can hear speech, but frequently have difficulty understanding it. The problem is usually compounded when background noise is present. Sensori-neural hearing loss is most commonly treated by the use of a hearing instrument, and generally can not be corrected through surgery or medicine.
- Conductive Hearing Loss Conductive hearing loss typically involves an obstruction in the outer or middle ear which reduces transmission of sound vibration through air, bone or tissue to the inner ear. Fortunately, many conductive hearing losses can be treated successfully by medical or surgical procedures. Hearing instruments can also successfully treat conductive hearing loss. Persons with both conductive and sensori-neural hearing loss are commonly referred to as having MIXED hearing loss. Most of these cases can be helped by either a hearing instrument or surgery.
Q: What causes hearing impairment?
A: Hearing impairment is caused by many factors including allergies, drugs, genetics, age, tumors, middle ear infections, excessive exposure to environmental noise, birth defects and traumatic injury.
Q: Are all hearing losses the same?
A: No. There are two basic types of hearing loss: conductive and sensorineural. Conductive hearing loss may be caused by excessive ear wax or fluid in the ear. These conditions should be treated by a physician. Yet, other forms of conductive losses may be helped with a hearing aid. Sensorineural loss is usually caused by damage to the cochlea or auditory nerve. Hearing aids most often offset this type of hearing loss.
Q: What are the implications of hearing loss?
A: If left untreated, hearing loss can severely impact individuals' personal and professional lives by depriving them of the ability to communicate efficiently.
Q: Will a hearing aid improve hearing?
A: Hearing aids amplify sound and make it easier to participate in all kinds of listening situations, whether at work or at leisure. Although hearing aids will not restore natural hearing ability or cure damage, hearing aids do enable many people to hear better.