Hearing is one of the human body’s most extraordinary processes. A complex system of delicate and synchronous parts, it’s easy to take this vital sense for granted. To better understand why hearing loss happens, it’s important to first know how hearing works.
It begins with sound
Sound begins with a vibration in the atmosphere. When something vibrates (whether it’s wind, a bell or a voice), it moves the air particles around it. Those air particles in turn move the air particles around them, carrying the pulse of the vibration through the air as a sound wave. That’s where your ear comes in.
Turning waves into words
Sound waves are collected by the outer ear and directed along the ear canal to the eardrum. When the sound waves hit the eardrum, the impact creates vibrations, which, in turn, cause the three bones of the middle ear to move. The smallest of these bones, the stirrup, fits into the oval window between the middle and inner ear.
When the oval window vibrates, fluid in the inner ear transmits the vibrations into a delicate, snail-shaped structure called the cochlea.
In the inner ear, thousands of microscopic hair cells are bent by the wave-like action of the fluid inside the cochlea. The bending of these hairs sets off nerve impulses. Which are then passed through the auditory nerve to the hearing center of the brain. This center translates the impulses into sounds the brain can recognize, like words, music or laughter, for instance.
If any part of this delicate system breaks down, hearing loss can be the result.
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To learn more about signs of hearing loss and treatment, or to arrange for audiological consultation, contact us by filling out our Contact Us page and we will be in touch to schedule your free consultation.
Studies have shown that, on average, people will wait eight to ten years between first experiencing symptoms of hearing loss and finally seeking help. Unfortunately, during this timeframe, people fall into coping mechanisms. They ask people to repeat themselves, turn the TV up louder, or avoid places where hearing is more challenging. These behaviors are actually exacerbating the negative effects. That’s why early intervention is always recommended.
Early intervention prevents your brain from forgetting what to do
The ability to make instant association depends on repeatedly hearing a word. If you do not hear a word for a long period of time, difficulty connecting the sound to its meaning occurs. Over time, reduced stimulation to the brain can impair its ability to process sound and recognize speech. Once speech recognition deteriorates, it is only partially recoverable with hearing aids.
Early intervention slows cognitive decline and communication problems
Not being able to hear what’s going on around you contributes to reduced mental sharpness and communication abilities.
Early intervention improves the use of hearing aids
The earlier people begin to use hearing aids, the sooner they get comfortable wearing them, and the easier it is to maximize their advantage.
May is Better Hearing Month — meaning now is a great time to be proactive about your hearing loss and seek treatment before its negative effects get worse. To arrange for a comprehension hearing consultation, contact us by filling out our Contact Us page and we will be in touch to schedule your free appointment.
Ear anatomy 101
The ear consists of three sections: outer, middle and inner ear. Each section performs a distinct function in the transmission of sounds to the brain. When any part of this system breaks down, hearing loss can result.
The outer ear consists of the pinna and external ear canal. The function of the outer ear is to collect sounds (at this point, vibrations) from the environment and to transmit the signal to the middle ear. The pinna assists in localizing the sound source and provides natural directional benefit. The external ear canal—typically “S” shaped and one inch long in adults—serves to funnel vibrations to the middle ear.
The middle ear begins at the tympanic membrane (ear drum) and ends at the inner ear. An air-filled space (called the middle ear cavity) is on the inner side of the ear drum. In that cavity are the ossicles (the three smallest bones in the human body): the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil) and stapes (stirrup). Sound vibrates the ear drum, which causes a chain reaction among the auditory bones, ending with the stapes vibrating the oval window of the cochlea in the inner ear.
In the inner ear, the cochlea is responsible for converting those vibrations into electrical signals that travel to the brain. The pressure on the oval window creates a complex wave-like motion that activates thousands of microscopic hair cells in the organ of corti, which are tuned to certain sound frequencies. When these hair cells are activated, they send electrical impulses through the auditory nerve to the hearing center of the brain, which translates them to sounds the brains can recognize.
The inner ear also includes the semi-circular canals, which are responsible for balance.
Learn more during Better Hearing Month
With May being Better Hearing Month, now is a great time to learn more about hearing and hearing loss. Arrange a free consultation by filling out our Contact Us page or calling us today.
There’s not much better on a nice day than opening the car windows or putting down the top on a convertible. However, precautions should be taken to avoid harming your hearing at the same time while enjoying the wind in your hair on the open road. According to a Better Hearing Institute online article, recent tests were conducted for driving different types of convertibles at highway speeds as it relates to potential harm to hearing. The finding indicated that 80% of the cars produced noise exposure of 85 decibels, a level harmful to hearing if sustained for a lengthy period of time.
Additionally, this sound level could be greatly amplified to much more severe levels when other external noise sources existed, such as the noises from close car and motorcycle traffic. Additionally, the 85 decibel noise measurement didn’t include sounds produced within the car interior like the radio and air conditioning. Since these external and internal sounds are usually prevalent at some degree, the noise exposure threat is usually much higher than the already harmful 85 decibels.
While we don’t suggest not enjoying a convertible ride on a nice day, we do agree with the article’s recommendation to not drive for long stretches with your convertible or windows down, especially at highway speeds. By following these simple suggestions, one may be able to prevent exposure to harmful sounds and avoid noise induced hearing loss difficulties in the future. If you have any further questions regarding this topic feel free to post your comment below or submit your information on our Contact Us page.
Protect your hearing and enjoy the ride.
Hearing Plus LLC
For many, there are no sounds of silence. Instead, even the quietest of moments, such as sleep, can be filled with buzzing, humming or ringing sounds. This unfortunate condition is called tinnitus and, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, it has affected nearly 25 million Americans to date. Presently, no treatments are available to cure this condition however new tinnitus hearing aid technolgy is available through Hearing Plus LLC.
Tinnitus is primarily caused by prolonged exposure to loud noises but also can stem from aging, head injuries or side effects from medications. Tinnitus is also often similiar to phatom pain. For many of those afflicted, the impacts can be grave as the perpetual ringing can cause difficulties in concentration and sleeping. While there are no curable options, different treatments can be used to help ease the suffering from the condition or help reduce the degree to which it is prevalent. These treatments include counseling to help in coping with the effects of tinnitus, sound therapy using subtle background noises to lessen the effects and hearing aids, in some cases, have been able to help provide relief though amplification of other sounds.
If you or someone you know suffers from ringing in the ears, we want to help them evaluate these options to possibly lessen the effects of tinnitus. We can readily supply more information or schedule a comprehensive hearing evaluation and consultation. Simply go to our Contact Us page to submit your information and we will be in touch within one business day.
Dr. Patricia Larson Shields AuD FAAA MA CCC SP/L
Today, dementia afflicts one in 10 Americans over 70 years in age, and that number is projected to substantially increase over the next few decades. According to a FoxNews.com article, Could Hearing Aids Delay Dementia?, a recent series of studies conducted at John Hopkins Medicine have revealed that treating hearing loss may provide some benefit in slowing the dementia process, especially in individuals over 60 and older with signs of moderate hearing losses or worse. While the study does not indicate that hearing aids can prevent dementia, it does bring up some interesting points on how achieving better hearing through hearing aids may help delay the dementia process and lessen the impact.
This study explored the correlation between untreated hearing loss and the acceleration of dementia. Of the 639 individuals studied over an average of 12 years, 36 percent of those 60 and older who had a moderate or severe hearing loss were diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease in that time frame. While it is not suggested that their hearing loss directly caused those conditions, it is intriguing to see their relationship as likely more than a co-incidence. New studies are set to take place to determine the effects of hearing loss as it relates to formation of dementia, though, in the meantime, researchers heed importance for managing hearing health to help in possibly delaying the effects of dementia.
This possibility to delay the effects of dementia may likely be a result of gaining better comprehension of speech through hearing aids. This leads to overall better mental astuteness, quality of life and less likelihood of social isolation which fuels dementia in many individuals. We at Hearing Plus LLC agree with this recommendation and the benefits that better hearing can have for an individual’s overall health and well-being. For those interested to learn more about the effects of hearing loss or to get started on taking care of their hearing health with a comprehensive hearing evaluation, simply submit your information on our Contact Us page and we will be in touch within one business day.
Having a hearing loss is not something that anyone gets excited about. However, with the right attitude and approach, it can actually be a very manageable condition to care for. In my years of caring for those with hearing loss, I have seen time and time again people make remarkable improvements by simply dedicating themselves to getting the most out of wearing a hearing aid. With hopes of similar outcomes in the future I am sharing 5 simple steps to better hearing for you or a loved one to use.
Patricia Larson Shields, AuD FAAA MACCCSP/L is a doctor of audiology with her degree from The School of Audiology of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry in February, 2003. She has been in business in Mitchell, SD since September, 1991.