Hearing is the ability to hear and understand sound in our environment. Each part of the ear (outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear) together with your brain, plays an important part in the ability to hear. Obstruction in the ear canal (e.g., wax or a foreign object); infection in the middle ear, or damage to the auditory nerve in the inner ear can affect one’s ability to hear normally.
Problems with the outer and middle ear can usually be treated successfully through medication or the removal of wax in the ear canal.
The most common hearing loss, especially amongst the elderly and those exposed to loud sounds, is caused by damage to the auditory nerve and is often referred to as nerve deafness or having a sensorineural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is very successfully treated with hearing aids. People suffering from a profound hearing loss (those born deaf or who lost most of their hearing with limited help from hearing aids) benefit greatly from cochlear implants.
Causes of hearing loss
General signs of hearing loss
Here are some signs that it may be time to have your hearing evaluated.
- Friends or family say you turn the television or radio up too loud
- You struggle to understand speech, especially in noisy environments
- You have difficulty hearing people on the phone
- A feeling that you can hear, but not understand
- You are not sure where sound is coming from, known as localization
- You often ask people to repeat themselves
- You’re dependent on a spouse or a loved one to help you hear
- You find yourself avoiding social situations
- You feel exhaustion after attending social events, known as listening fatigue
- You notice tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
- Paradoxically, some sounds seem too loud, known as “recruitment”
Changes in your hearing can be a gradual process or it can be a sudden change. Identifying hearing loss is not always that easy and other people may notice changes before you do.
If you suspect hearing loss in yourself, your child or someone close to you, contact your nearest Ear Institute for an appointment. The sooner you seek help, the better your outcome will be.