Hearing Health

Hearing loss is a prevalent chronic condition among adults of all ages and it is well recognized that hearing loss gets worse as we age. More than 30% of individuals over 65 suffer from some type of hearing loss, 14% of those between 45 and 64 also have hearing loss and more than half of all hearing impaired persons are under the age of 65 years. But hearing loss is also on the increase in younger people. One reason for this trend is the use of MP3 players, but more specifically, the duration and volume they’re listening to them.

How We Hear

The ear is a precious and delicate organ. Before we hear anything, sound waves in the air need to be converted into nerve impulses that our brain then reads as ‘sound’. To fully understand how it works, it’s important to realize that the ear is made up of three parts:

  1. The outer ear
  2. The middle ear
  3. The inner ear

Sound waves are gathered by the outer ear, move down the ear canal and strike the eardrum, causing it to vibrate. The drum is connected to three tiny bones that are housed in the middle ear. The third bone acts as a piston, moving in a small opening at the start of the inner ear. This movement sets up waves in the fluid of the inner ear. These waves, like a swell in the ocean, move over tiny hairs that stick out of nerve cells lining the inner ear, and as these hair cells move they generate nerve impulses. The nerve impulses are then carried along nerve fibers to the brain – it’s here they are registered as sound.

Hearing loss

There are three types of hearing loss:

1.Conductive hearing loss loss is when there is a problem in the outer or middle ear, which prevents sound from getting to the inner ear. It can be caused by:

  • An ear infection
  • A hole in the ear drum
  • Abnormality of the little bones in the ear canal.

2.Sensorineural hearing lossoccurs when there is a problem in the ear canal that prevents sound from getting from the middle ear to the brain. Hearing aids are usually very effective at compensating for this kind of hearing loss. Causes of sensorineural hearing loss can include:

  • Infections or viruses
  • Inherited hearing loss
  • Sudden loud sounds or prolonged exposure to loud sounds
  • The aging process.

3.Mixed hearing lossoccurs when two of the above problems combine; one in the outer or middle ear and one in the inner ear or nerve.

Ringing ears – tinnitus

Ringing ears or tinnitus is that persistent ringing or buzzing in your ears. It affects one in three persons at some time in their life, so if your ears are buzzing, it’s not a mosquito! If you suffer from this common and annoying hearing problem, a visit to KSHC for a thorough hearing test can help us diagnose the issue and prescribe a course of action.

Hearing devices can often mask out the tinnitus symptoms. Another approach uses noise generators to disguise the tinnitus sound with ‘white’ noise, distracting the brain from the buzzing of tinnitus. And take note: aspirin, caffeine, alcohol and smoking are all known to exacerbate tinnitus.

Treatments

Outer or middle ear hearing loss can sometimes be corrected by surgery, antibiotics, or removal of an obstruction (such as ear wax). Inner ear hearing loss is not as easily fixed with surgery or medication. Hearing aids are really the only option. They amplify sound, which means they only work when some degree of hearing is retained. So, visit one KSHC to find out which hearing aids are suitable for you.

Non-technical treatments can also make a significant difference to your hearing. Simple things like asking people to speak louder or more slowly can help to improve communication.