Hearing never sounded so good

Parts of the Ear: Outer Ear | Middle Ear | Inner Ear

Hearing, one of the five senses, is the ability to recognize sounds through the detection of “beats” or vibrations. Any reduction of ability to hear, whether partial or complete, is called hearing loss.

With the exception of genetic hearing losses or congenital diseases, the human ear is fully developed at birth, forming in utero by the week. This ability to hear so early allows us to understand and interact with the world around us and form connections. 

So how do we Hear

What is Hearing Loss?
Hearing loss may be a result of a trauma, genetics, exposure to loud sounds or aging, to name a few. Hearing loss may be temporary, for example instances of ear infections, or permanent. Hearing loss may be undetected, as in cases of mild losses, or may be profound. Hearing loss may affect any one at any age.
When describing hearing loss, it is helpful to talk about three categories: type of hearing loss, degree of hearing loss, and configuration of hearing loss.

Type of Hearing Loss:

Conductive - a conductive hearing loss is a type of loss that is a result of an inability of the sound to travel through the outer and/or middle ear. This may be a result of a deformed pinna, a buildup of excessive ear wax, a hole in the eardrum, fluid build up (an ear infection) or the ossicles (the tiny bones) being separated from each other. Many types of conductive hearing loss many be corrected through medical treatments or surgeries. An Audiologist can usually make the determination of what may be wrong but a referral to an Otolaryngologist, a medical specialist of the ear, nose and throat, will be warranted. If an Otolaryngologist determines that medical intervention is not appropriate, a hearing aid is an excellent choice for improving hearing ability as the inner ear is undamaged.

Sensorineural - a sensorineural hearing loss means that there is a problem with the sensory system, the cochlea, or the nerve. This may be a result of a medical problem, such as a tumor growing along the auditory nerve, or a loss of hearing due to the tiny hair cells in the cochlea being damaged due to aging or noise exposure. If the cause of loss is due to the later, a hearing aid or cochlear implant are more than likely the answer.

Mixed - a mixed hearing loss means that the hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing losses.

Degree of hearing loss  
The degree of hearing loss is more or less a “prescription” to be used by the Audiologist or Hearing Aid Dispenser in order to program the patient’s hearing aid or to counsel the patient and their family on the meaning of their loss.

Hearing may be “normal” or you may have a mild, moderate, severe, or profound loss. Unlike vision, there is a “range” of what is considered to be normal, as well as the other categories. It is important to note that the “degree” of hearing loss is not necessarily reflective of the impact that loss has on an individual. For example, normal hearing is defined as -10dB to 25dB (in adults). This is a pretty significant range! If your hearing was at -10dB when you were born and it changed to 20dB, this 30dB change of hearing (the same amount of loss if you were to put in hearing protection) may cause sounds to be very muffled and you may strain to hear.

Configuration of hearing loss

The configuration of hearing loss means the shape that the loss takes when plotted on the audiogram (the graph that hearing is measured on). The most common hearing loss configurations are flat (hearing loss affecting all frequencies/pitches equally), sloping (a hearing loss that is more severe in the high frequencies), the reverse slope (hearing loss more severe in the low frequencies) and the Cookie Bite (it looks like someone took a bite out of the graph). The Cookie Bite loss is typically associated with genetic hearing loss and may be the precursor to a diagnosis by a genetic counselor in children.

How hearing is measured

The Testing
Hearing loss is measured by a trained hearing healthcare professional, including Audiologists, Hearing Aid Dispensers and, in some instances, nurses and Otolaryngologists.
Prior to testing, the outer ear should be examined to ensure that there is no excessive ear wax that could interfere with the testing and that the ear drum is visualized.

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