Importance of Hearing
Hearing is one of our most important senses: it connects us to the world around us, improves communication and alerts us of trouble. It empowers us by allowing us to participate in activities such as group settings.
Life without hearing is almost unimaginable to someone with healthy hearing. If you or someone you know has difficulty hearing, a hearing assessment is vital.
How Do We Hear?
Our auditory pathway, from the outer ear to the brain, transfers and processes sound energy into information which we understand as speech or sound. In order to understand how we hear, we need to understand how each part of the ear performs its role. Our ears are divided into three main parts: the outer, middle and inner ear.
The outer ear, called the pinna, captures sound and channels it into the ear canal. The sound waves travel down the ear canal to the eardrum and cause it to vibrate.
The middle ear is made up of the 3 smallest bones in the body, called the ossicles. The ossicles are individually named the Malleus, Incus, and Stapes, or colloquially known as the hammer, anvil and stirrup. The vibrating eardrum causes the ossicles to move. The stapes is connected to the inner ear, and the movement causes the energy to be transferred into the inner ear.
The inner ear contains the snail-shaped organ of hearing called the cochlea. The cochlea is filled with fluid and contains tiny hair cells called stereocilia which are responsible for detecting different frequencies of vibration. As the sound waves travel through the fluid, the hair cells are set into motion. As the hair cells move, they convert the vibrations into electrical signals. These signals are transmitted via the auditory nerve to a nucleus in the brainstem.
The brainstem and thalamus receive the electrical signals from each ear and processes where the sound’s direction and location. The combined signal is then transferred to the auditory cortex. Inside the auditory cortex, individual auditory neurons handle different frequencies. The auditory cortex processes sound qualities such as intensity, duration and location, and is also responsible for more complex processing such as speech recognition and understanding.
What is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss can be acquired (such as from injury or infection) or a result of genetics and congenital conditions. If you suspect that you may have hearing loss, it’s important to see a qualified audiologist at SightMD as soon as possible. Hearing loss is treatable, but the sooner it’s treated, the better.
Signs of Hearing Loss
- Turning the volume up on the TV
- Missing words in a phone conversation
- Feeling as though everybody “mumbles”
Effects of a hearing loss
- Strained relationships
- Loss of independence: Reliance on a partner or friend
Types of Hearing Loss
There are multiple types of hearing loss. These are:
Hearing loss can also be divided into categories to describe the severity. These categories include:
- Mild hearing loss: Mild hearing loss means that a person has difficulties keeping up with conversations, especially in noisy surroundings. Most people with mild hearing loss do not need a hearing aid.
- Moderate hearing loss: People with moderate hearing loss have trouble keeping up with conversations without a hearing aid.
- Severe hearing loss: People with severe hearing loss have to depend on a powerful hearing aid to hear. They often rely on lip-reading even when they are using hearing aids. If you have severe hearing loss, it may be worth researching to see if other options like a cochlear implant or middle ear implants are a good option.
- Profound hearing loss: People with profound hearing loss are extremely hard of hearing, and primarily rely on lip-reading and sign language.
The biggest and most obvious difference is the difference in fine-tuning channels – more channels means a more precise fit (programmed for your specific hearing test results). The higher the technology level, the more channels the hearing aid has.
“Channels break up the frequency range into individual channels. This allows the hearing aid to differentiate noise from speech. The more channels the hearing aid has the more fine tuned it can be. For instance the sound of keys falling on a table, or water running in the sink may be overwhelming. When your hearing aid offers many channels we can adjust each frequency that is too loud without sacrificing the things you want to hear, like your spouse or boss.” https://www.audicus.com/hearing-aid-channels-and-bands/