Sounds travel through the air, the function of the outer ear is to collect these sound waves and direct them down the ear canal to the eardrum (tympanic membrane). The eardrum, which is at the entrance to the middle ear, vibrates in response to the external changing sound pressures.
The middle ear is filled with air to keep the air pressure equalised on both sides of the eardrum. The Eustachian Tube, which opens into the back of the mouth, allows air in and out of the middle ear as required. In the middle ear there are three tiny bones called the ossicles. The vibration of the eardrum causes small movements in these three bones, which are connected. The linked movement of the bones transmits vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear via the oval window which is another membrane similar to the eardrum. This is the entrance to the inner ear.
The inner ear contains organs of hearing and balance. The vibrations passed to the hearing part of the inner ear, the cochlea, are converted into electrical neural impulses. These impulses are then transferred to the auditory centre of the brain via the auditory nerve. When the brain receives the message, it processes it so that you know what you are hearing.
Causes of Hearing Loss
Different types of hearing loss
There are basically two types:
Conductive hearing loss
Any condition of the outer or middle ear that reduces the efficient transmission of sound to the inner ear, these are often temporary but can be long-term conditions.
• a cold
• outer ear infections
• middle ear infections or fluid in the middle ear cavity
• perforation of the eardrum
• build up of ear wax in the ear canal can temporarily reduce the hearing.
Sensori-neural hearing loss
Any condition that affects the cochlea (inner ear) or the auditory nerve. These are usually permanent. There are several possible causes of sensori-neural hearing losses:
• age-related hearing loss. More than 50% of people over 60 have a hearing loss. This common condition is called presbyacusis.
• noise exposure. Prolonged and repeated exposure to loud noise - at work or at leisure - can damage hearing.
• diseases of the ear. Infections of the middle ear or perforated eardrums can cause a hearing loss. So can serious infections like meningitis or measles.
• genetics. About one in every thousand babies is born moderately to profoundly deaf. Some people are genetically more prone to lose their hearing in later life.
Mixed hearing loss
Those with both conductive and sensori-neural hearing problems are said to have a mixed hearing loss
Indicators of hearing loss
Do any of these situations seem familiar?
• Do other people seem to mumble rather than speak clearly to you?
• Do people often have to repeat things for you?
• Do you have difficulty understanding what is being said in noisy places, such as family gatherings, pubs or restaurants, even though other people manage to have conversations?
• When you are talking to people in a group, is it hard to keep up with the conversation?
• Do you find it tiring to listen to conversations because you have to concentrate hard?
• Do other people think your television or music is too loud but you cannot hear it properly if they turn it down?
• Do you often have difficulty hearing on the telephone?
• Are you trying to lip read?
If you answer yes to any of these questions, you may have a hearing loss.
You may be anxious about the thought of losing your hearing. You might not want to think about it, but the earlier you do something, the better.
How common are hearing problems?
Did you know that one in seven people in the UK have some level of hearing loss? That’s nine million people – so you’re not alone. Most of the 9 million people with hearing problems are older people who are gradually losing their hearing as part of the aging process.
Only about 2% of young adults have significant hearing impairment.
Around the age of 50 the proportion of people with hearing difficulties begins to increase sharply and 55% of people over 60 have hearing problems.
What should I do if I’m concerned about my hearing?
If you think your hearing is not as good as it used to be and you want to chat about your hearing and any difficulties you may be experiencing, call us on (01538 266705). We will be able to advise you on the most appropriate course of action.
On average, it takes 5 to 10 years for people who are experiencing hearing difficulties to seek a hearing assessment. It is important to have your hearing tested sooner rather than later and have hearing aids fitted if required.
The best way to establish your hearing levels and the nature of any hearing loss is to examine your ears and undertake a hearing test. A hearing test or Pure Tone Audiogram is a simple but very accurate way of establishing your hearing levels in both ears.
We will then be able to discuss the results with you and offer you advice about the options available.
How many people use hearing aids? There are:
• two million people with hearing aids
• 1.4 million people who use them regularly
• four million people who it is thought could benefit from a hearing aid.
• of the 55% of people over the age of 60 have some degree of hearing loss but only one in three people who could benefit from hearing aids actually have them
• one in seven people in the UK are deaf or hard of hearing.