Hearing is arguably the most important of our five major senses. Our sense of hearing alerts us to danger, is vital in learning, allows us to work, helps us relax, and connects us with the things and people around us. It is not difficult to see why preserving our ability to hear in all stages of our lives is essential.
How We Hear
This short video clip shows how sound travels through our ear to our brain.
There is a specified range of volume for sound at different pitches that defines normal hearing. If the softest sounds you can hear fall within that range, you have normal hearing. If they do not, you have a hearing loss. There is no ‘normal’ amount of hearing loss for anyone, at any age. Someone either has a hearing loss or they don’t.
There are 3 types of hearing loss:
Conductive Hearing Loss: This type of hearing loss is caused by a problem with the structures of the outer or middle ear responsible for taking sounds to the hearing organ (cochlea). Some causes of conductive hearing loss include wax blocking the ear canal, fluid build up in the middle ear space (which is common with ear infections), a hole or tear of the eardrum, and malformations of the structures in the outer or middle ear systems. Conductive hearing loss can be treated with medication, surgery, hearings aids or a combination.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss: This type of hearing loss is caused by a problem with the hearing organ (cochlea) located in the inner ear. There are small hair cells in the cochlea that receive and help transmit sounds to the brain. Damage to these cells causes sensorineural or ‘nerve-based’ hearing loss. Some causes of sensorineural hearing loss include aging, excessive noise exposure, some medications, and genetic conditions. Sensorineural hearing loss is generally permanent in nature. It usually cannot be treated with medication or surgery, however it can be treated with hearing aids.
Mixed Hearing Loss: This type of hearing loss has both a conductive and sensorineural component. Mixed hearing loss may be partially treated with medication or surgery. It can also be treated with hearing aids.