What is hearing loss?

Hearing loss, or hearing impairment, happens when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ear or ears, the nerves coming from the ears, or the part of the brain that controls hearing. "Impairment" means something is not working correctly or as well as it should.

Hearing, just like the other four senses, plays an important role in our wellbeing. When hearing fades slowly, it can have a major impact on your day-to-day life.

It takes an average of seven years for someone to make the call to get their hearing loss treated. Seven years is a long time to ignore hearing loss, so it’s a good idea to get your hearing checked sooner rather than later.

Effects of untreated hearing loss

The average time it takes for someone to seek treatment after they first notice they have a hearing loss is seven years. When hearing loss goes untreated for a while, it can continue to deteriorate and affect different aspects of everyday life.

Health effects

When the auditory hair cells in the inner ear are damaged or deteriorate over time, the sound signals being sent to the brain become weaker. Permanent hearing loss can lead to an effect known as Auditory Deprivation. Prolonged deprivation of signals to the auditory brain common in hearing loss have been associated with negative effects on cognitive and memory abilities.

Lifestyle effects

Whether it’s during an important meeting, chatting with friends at a café or just watching TV, hearing loss can create tension in your life. Struggling to keep up with a conversation can be frustrating not just for you, but also for the people around you. Often, people with a hearing loss can begin to separate themselves, and become socially isolated. Luckily, Bay Audiology can help. With proper treatment for hearing loss, you can continue to stay happy and active and get the most out of life.

Why does my hearing not work?

There are three types of hearing loss:

  • Conductive hearing loss: when a problem in the outer or middle ear stops sound from getting to the inner ear.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: when a problem in the inner ear prevents sound from getting from the outer and middle ear to the brain.
  • Mixed hearing loss occurs when both of these problems combine.

 

The majority of hearing losses are sensorineural and caused by permanent damage to the hair cells in the ears. These hearing losses are effectively treated with hearing aids. Conductive hearing losses may be temporary and improve either spontaneously or by medical intervention. A diagnostic hearing consultation with your Bay Audiology audiologist will reveal the type of loss you have and what treatments may be available.

How Your Ears Hear

The ear is a precious and delicate organ. Although many people take their ears for granted, they are constantly functioning through a series of intricate processes. The structure of the ear is very complex and there are three major parts – the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Here’s how the three basic areas work together to create the sounds you enjoy every day:

The Outer Ear

The outer ear includes the pinna which is visible, the ear canal and the eardrum. The pinna is designed to direct sound into the ear canal. When the sound reaches the end of the ear canal it causes the eardrum to vibrate back and forth. This transfers the sound through to the next stage, the middle ear.

The Middle Ear

The middle ear is an air-filled space that is kept at equal pressure with the outside environment. It does this via the eustachian tube that is connected to the back of the nose. The middle ear contains three tiny bones (hammer, anvil and stirrup) that vibrate along with the eardrum and continue the transferring of sound through to the inner ear.

The Inner Ear

The inner ear is where the sound waves are analysed and converted to electrical signals. There are many tiny cells in the inner ear which are activated by specific sounds. These cells send messages to the brain via the acoustic nerve.