As we grow older, many people begin to experience hearing loss. This is a natural part of the ageing process and develops gradually over time. Already at the age of 20, we’ve lost the ability to perceive some of the sounds infants can hear. By the time we reach 30 or 40, subtle – but significant – losses may begin to occur.
With the added factor of prolonged exposure to high intensity noise at work and at home hearing impairment is increasingly common at an earlier age. Even a slight hearing loss can have a negative impact on your ability to work, socialise and enjoy life. Once we reach our 80s, more than half of us suffer from significant hearing loss.
Many of us don’t notice the early signs of hearing loss because we slowly adjust to the change. By the time we realise what’s happening, we may have already lost the full appreciation of sounds and music we once enjoyed.
CONDUCTIVE HEARING LOSS
This occurs when the external and middle ear can no longer conduct sound into the inner ear. One of the most common causes of conductive hearing loss is blockage in the external ear canal, typically caused by ear wax build-up or infection. Most cases are temporary and can be corrected with proper medical treatment.
SENSORINEURAL HEARING LOSS
Often successfully treated with hearing aids, this type of hearing loss may result from:
- damage to the sensory cells or
- nerve fibres of the inner ear
- exposure to diseases like
- mumps, meningitis, multiple
- sclerosis or acute Grave’s
- use of certain drugs like aspirin,
- cisplatin, quinine and the
- antibiotics streptomycin and
- your mother contracting rubella
- (German Measles) during
- low birth weight
- head or ear injuries
MIXED HEARING LOSS
This is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. This type of loss may be successfully treated with a combination of medical assistance and use of a hearing device.
Hearing loss affects everyone differently and it varies by degree from person to person. The medical community recognises four levels of hearing loss:
Mild Hearing Loss: Soft sounds are hard to hear. Understanding speech clearly in noisy environments may be challenging. Moderate Hearing Loss: Soft and moderately loud sounds are hard to hear. It’s often difficult to understand speech, especially when there’s background noise. Severe Hearing Loss: Some loud sounds are audible, but without a hearing instrument is impossible. Profound Hearing Loss: Some extremely loud sounds are audible. Communication without a hearing instrument is impossible.
Research on people with hearing loss and their significant others has shown that hearing aids play a significant factor in a person’s social, emotional, psychological and physical wellbeing.
- Communication in relationships
- Intimacy and warmth in family relationships
- Ease in communication
- Earning power
- Sense of control over your life
- Social participation
- Perception of mental functioning
- Emotional stability
At their most basic, hearing aids are microphones that convert sound into electrical signals. An amplifier increases the strength of the signal, then a receiver converts it back to sound and channels it into the ear canal through a small tube or earmould. A battery is necessary to power the hearing aid and to enable amplification.
Today’s hearing aids are sophisticated, state-of-the-art instruments that require computer programming to adjust to your specific lifestyle and listening environments. Hearing loss treatment is a simple process that can put you back on the track to better hearing.
When you consider all the benefits of better hearing, you can see that hearing instruments hold great potential to positively change your life.