Healing loss can creep up so slowly that you just may not realize that you are affected. In fact you could be the last person to know as it is often the case that friends, co-workers or family members spot the problem before you do. Sounds like birdsong, footsteps or leaves rustling in the wind are often the first sounds to fade away and not be heard any more by someone with hearing loss.
Of all the five senses, our hearing is probably the most precious after our sight
Deprived of hearing, people lose contact with those near and dear to them, as well as with the world at large. All the sounds around us every day make our lives richer and more fulfilled. But perhaps even more important is that a good sense of hearing keeps us safe by warning us of danger.
It is easy to forget about having our hearing tested regularly
This is in spite of having regular check ups for our eyes and our teeth. And of course the sooner a hearing loss is detected, the better.
Interestingly, the smallest bones of the human body are found inside the ear – the hammer, the anvil and stirrup.
The ear itself is made up of three different parts
1. The outer ear
of which the shape helps to collect sound waves and direct them through the auditory canal to the ear drum.
2. The middle ear
which contains the ear drum and those 3 tiny bones which amplify the sound waves.
3. The inner ear
where sound waves are changed into electrical impulses by the cochlea which has tiny sensory cells along its entire length. The cochlea, which is filled with fluid, transmits messages via the nerve fibers to that area of the brain in charge of processing and interpreting what we hear.
How widespread is hearing loss?
Some 500 million people worldwide experience some degree of hearing loss and half of them are not elderly but still of working age. So although hearing loss is often associated with growing old, this does not have to be so. The condition does often appear in people after the age of 65 but it can strike those at any age because it can be caused by infections, injury or even birth defects. There can be a genetic factor in hearing loss too. So the problem can run in families.
Another cause of early onset hearing loss is noise-induced damage
This is often because of over-exposure to excessive noise. Particularly at risk are members of the military or police service, construction workers, farmers, dentists and even kindergarten teachers. If you are constantly exposed to everyday noise over 83 decibels in your workplace, you should be protected by ear protectors at all times to avoid permanent damage to your hearing.
There are three types of hearing loss
1. Conductive hearing loss
which is caused by problems in the outer and middle ear. Such problems can prevent sounds getting through to the inner ear. This could be because of a build up of wax in the ear canal, a perforated eardrum, fluid in the middle ear or damaged or defective middle ear bones.
2. Sensorineural hearing loss
happens when the delicate sensory cells or nerve fibers in the inner ear get damaged, preventing them transmitting sounds properly. The most common causes are ageing or excessive exposure to noise and unfortunately this condition is usually permanent.
3. Mixed hearing loss
is the combination of both the first and second types above. The ear has a very delicate mechanism and sometimes it breaks down while at other times, it just wears out.
When we start to suffer from hearing loss, it is the softer, higher pitched consonants that can be drowned out by the louder and lower pitched vowel sounds. We can usually divide sounds into loud or soft, high pitched or low pitched. With hearing loss, it can become harder to hear the voices of women and children rather than men. And along with the hearing loss, can come feelings of isolation and even depression.
The good news is that once you have had your hearing tested and the hearing specialist has got to the bottom of the problem and treated it, people with hearing loss can start to improve their physical and emotional well being immediately