Hearing empowers us and enriches our lives. Hearing enables us to socialise, work, interact, communicate and even relax. Good hearing also helps to keep us safe, warning us of potential danger or alerting us to someone else’s distress.
Whilst it is a fact of life that our hearing deteriorates over time, there are actually many different types of hearing loss which can also be caused by infection, blockage, virus, noise trauma as well as ageing.
For most individuals, changes in hearing happen so gradually they are hardly noticeable. In fact, research has shown that every second person over the age of 50 has difficulty hearing clearly in background noise.
Many people endure poor hearing without realising that they can be helped – preventing them from leading a fuller and more enjoyable life!
The ear is made up of three sections; outer, middle and inner.
The Outer Ear
The outer ear includes the pinna (part outside your head), ear canal and eardrum. The role of the outer ear is to channel sounds from the environment to the middle ear.
The Middle Ear
The middle ear is an air filled cavity that contains the three smallest bones in the human body. The role of these bones is to send the sound waves from the eardrum to the inner ear.
The Eustachian tube keeps the air pressure in the middle ear equal to that of the surrounding environment.
The Inner Ear
In the inner ear, sound is processed by the cochlea. The role of the cochlea is to convert the sound wave vibration into a signal to send to the brain. Inside the fluid filled cochlea are lots of tiny hair cells. When the fluid inside the cochlea is displaced by the sound waves, the hair cells bend. This triggers a chemical response which transmits the message to the area of the brain in charge of processing and interpreting what we hear. Balance is processed within the inner ear in the part called the semi-circular canals.
A friend is calling from across the street. Someone is tapping on your kitchen window. A car is honking its horn. In situations like these, how do you know which way to look? The fact is that the sounds will reach one ear fractionally faster and louder than the other and your brain registers these subtle differences.
That is why, if you have a hearing loss in both ears, it is best to get two hearing instruments, because they make sounds easier to locate.
Other benefits of hearing well with both ears include:
Hearing loss is not the same as turning down the volume of a sound. What usually happens is certain sounds, tones, and pitches become more difficult for you to hear.
What makes speech so hard to follow with a hearing loss is that it involves so many different sounds in a rapid flow.
Age related hearing loss (sensorineural hearing loss) initially effects the high frequency sounds. These high pitch sounds such as “s”, “f”, “sh” and “t” play a key role in our ability to understand speech clearly.
Without these high pitch speech sounds speech can sound muffled. This is why a person with this type of hearing loss will often say, “I can hear but I don’t understand what is being said”.
For example, if someone says “statue” and all you can hear is “s_a_ue”, you will be forced to try and guess the rest, by which time the conversation will have moved on.
Below are three illustrations which show the difference a hearing loss has on letters compared to a visual impairment.
We are often asked why we have ear wax. It is not as a result of poor hygiene as many people think, but a clever mix of ingredients which have an important role in protecting and cleaning our ears.
In addition to trapping dirt and any creepy crawlies, ear wax lubricates the skin, provides anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties - ensuring the ear is kept healthy.
Ear wax naturally moves out of our ears. In fact, every time we talk, chew or yawn we are encouraging this process. Whilst many people remain unaffected by ear wax problems, ear wax can be a real issue for some.
So how would you know if you had an ear wax build up if you can’t see it?
The most common symptoms are a blocked sensation, a drop in hearing, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), dizziness and discomfort. The best way to clean the ears is to use a warm washcloth when in the shower, and gently clean the outer ear up to the opening of the ear canal only. NEVER use cotton buds as you could damage your ears. They also may compact the ear wax - making it impossible to come out in the usual way. Also, using cotton buds stimulates the ear canal to produce more wax and exacerbate the problem!
The microsuction clinic provides instant, effective wax removal treatment. Unlike traditional ear syringing, which uses water, microsuction uses gentle suction to remove wax.
The British Tinnitus Association defines tinnitus as
The actual word "tinnitus" is Latin for the word "ringing" although the sound you her may be low, medium or high pitched and may consist of a single noise or drone or may consist of one or two components.
The noise may appear to be in one ear, both ears or generally about - it can be hard to guess its exact location. The noise may be continuous or intermittent. Whilst tinnitus itself is not currently a curable condition, there are many ways of managing this condition to minimise the disruption that it can cause to your daily routines.
If you have tinnitus it is important to have your ears checked for impacted wax. This can exacerbate any tinnitus and is easily remedied.
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