Hearing Loss

Learn how hearing works and why it’s so important for overall health.

Mature couple smiling on their hike

How We Hear

Grandson whispering in his grandfathers ear

It’s important to understand how the ears work and translate sound in order to properly diagnose hearing loss and find a suitable treatment option. How we hear is broken into a few parts.

1. First sound is transmitted through the air as sound waves. The sound waves are collected by the outer ear and sent down the ear canal to the eardrum.

2. These sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate, setting the tiny bones of the ear into motion.

3. The motion of these tiny bones causes fluid in the inner ear, cochlea, to move.

4. The movement of this fluid in the inner ear causes the hair cells in the cochlea to bend and change into electrical impulses.

5. These electrical impulses are transmitted to the hearing nerve and sent up to the brain where they are interpreted into sound.

Hearing and Brain Health

Our hearing is deeply connected to other aspects of our health and overall well-being. In fact, did you know we don’t hear with our ears? We “hear” with our brain. Sounds travel through the ear up to the auditory cortex of the brain, where it’s translated into meaning. When you can’t hear well due to hearing loss, your brain has to work harder to hear the little it can. Over time this can lead to listening fatigue, forgetfulness, social isolation, depression, and even cognitive decline.

It’s important to take care of your hearing health by scheduling annual hearing check-ups to ensure any signs of hearing loss are caught early. It’s also crucial to wear earplugs if you are exposed to loud noise, this way you can protect your hearing now and for the future.

Signs of Hearing Loss

Some of the most common indicators of hearing loss include:

Types of Hearing Loss

Just as there are different degrees of hearing loss, there are also different types. The three main types of hearing loss are: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed.

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type and occurs due to damage to the delicate hair cells in the inner ear (responsible for hearing) or to the cochlea. Causes include age, genetics, repeated loud noise exposure, head trauma, or underlying health conditions (such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart disease). While this type of hearing loss is permanent, it can be managed with hearing aids.

Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is an issue conducting sound from the outer and middle ear to the inner ear. Causes of conductive hearing loss include impacted earwax, ear infection, fluid in the middle ear, or ruptured eardrum. This type of hearing loss can be successfully treated by a physician or ENT.

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive. First you will need to treat the conductive portion by visiting a doctor, then the sensorineural portion can be managed with hearing aids.

Audiologist doing a hearing screening