Hearing Loss Information
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Some causes of hearing loss include damage to the inner ear, a buildup of earwax, infections and a ruptured eardrum. To understand how hearing loss occurs, it can be helpful to understand how you hear.
How you hear
Hearing occurs when sound waves reach the structures inside your ear, where the sound wave vibrations are converted into nerve signals that your brain recognizes as sound.
Your ear consists of three major areas: outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. Sound waves pass through the outer ear and cause vibrations at the eardrum. The eardrum and three small bones of the middle ear — the hammer, anvil and stirrup — amplify the vibrations as they travel to the inner ear. There, the vibrations pass through fluid in a snail-shaped structure in the inner ear (cochlea).
Attached to nerve cells in the cochlea are thousands of tiny hairs that help translate sound vibrations into electrical signals that are transmitted to your brain. The vibrations of different sounds affect these tiny hairs in different ways, causing the nerve cells to send different signals to your brain. That's how you distinguish one sound from another.
How hearing loss can occur
Causes of hearing loss include:
Symptoms of Hearing Loss
How can I tell if I have a hearing loss?
If you answer yes to some of the following questions, you may have a hearing loss
Think about these situations
“I can hear but can’t understand.”
Other Things to Consider if You Think You or Someone You Know Has a Hearing Loss
For most adults, the onset and progression of a hearing loss extends over some time.
Often, people will blame their hearing problems on the nature of the other person’s speech. For example, someone might say: “If people wouldn’t mumble, I could hear! “Or, “People talked a lot clearer when I was younger.”
One’s family and friends are likely to be the first to notice some difficulty hearing, long before the person does.
Typically at this stage, the individual will deny a problem. This is understandable, since there is usually great variability in how the person functions in various situations and with different people. In some situations and with some people, he or she may do pretty well.
People will not be aware of what they don’t hear (like the sounds of birds, the beep of the microwave, and soft everyday sounds). They will be aware that they do not understand speech, as when they say, “I can hear but can’t understand,” especially the high-pitched voices of children.
Family members frequently complain that the TV volume is set too high, leading to some family squabbles.
The person with hearing loss will notice difficulty in understanding when someone talks from another room.
Probably, the major complaint of people with hearing loss is the difficulty they experience in comprehending speech in any kind of noisy place (restaurants, receptions, large family dinners, in the car, or on a plane).
Group conversations are particularly difficult, especially when there is great deal of cross-talk.
These increasing difficulties in hearing may produce conflict between the person with hearing loss and family members, with the family insisting on getting help and the person with hearing loss reluctant to recognize the reality. This stage may last for seven or more years before the hearing loss and the problems that go along with it are acknowledged and help is sought.
For children who are hard of hearing, the situation is different. Parents should be on the lookout for delayed or aberrant speech and language development, apparent inattention, and poor school work. Hearing screenings in classrooms are necessary, but not mandated in all states. Ask your pediatrician to do a hearing screening at the annual check-up.
Get a Hearing Test to Know for Sure
*Hearing Loss Association of America http://www.hearingloss.org/content/symptoms-hearing-loss
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