Good hearing is so important in our everyday lives, yet most people with normal hearing don’t even think twice about what it means to be able to hear well. Chatting with friends, listening to the sounds of nature, enjoying music or hearing warning signals – they take it all for granted.
Our hearing plays an important role in how we relate to our surroundings. It facilitates the forming of relationships, and opens up a wealth of sensory experiences. It is also very complex and extremely sensitive.
So let’s give it the attention it deserves …
According to the UN agency, over 5% of the world's population (360 million people) has disabling hearing loss. Of this, 32 million are children. Other estimates show that around 6.3% of Indian population suffers from hearing and speech impairment and this includes close to 50 lakh children.
A child who struggles to hear may also struggle to learn to speak, underachieve at school and end up socially isolated," says Dr Etienne Krug, director of WHO's department for management of non-communicable diseases, disability, violence and injury prevention.
The statics shows that typically a patient takes 6 to 7 years to accept the hearing problem and meet an audiologist or doctor to fix the hearing problem.
The ear is an amazing and incredibly skilled organ that performs the wonderful and highly complex task of hearing. It can distinguish between 7,000 different pitches and enables the brain to locate sound sources.The human ear consists of three parts – the outer, middle, and inner ear.
Our ears are like antennae picking up signals from different directions. The complex structures of the ear process these signals and pass them on to the brain, where they are interpreted. Therefore, for optimum hearing, it is best if both ears are fully functioning. But exactly what happens when sound waves enter the human ear?.Outer ear: The outer ear picks up sound and transmits it to the eardrum via the ear canal.
Middle ear: Sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate. The ossicles, called malleus, incus, and stapes, pass the vibration on to the inner ear.
Inner ear: The cochlea converts movements of the ossicles into electrical signals. The auditory nerve transmits the signals to the brain.
Hearing loss is when your ability to hear is reduced. A hearing loss makes it more difficult for you to hear speech and other sounds. The most common causes of hearing loss are noise and ageing. In most cases a hearing loss cannot be cured.
Hearing loss is typically identified as either sensorineural, conductive, a mix of these, or single-sided.
Sensorineural hearing loss:- Unlike conductive hearing loss, sensorineural conditions only affect the inner ear or neural pathways. It is the most common type of hearing loss. Sound is transmitted through the outer and middle ears normally but the inner ear is less efficient in transmitting to the brain for processing, usually due to damage to the auditory nerve, the cochlea, and/or hair cells (the fine nerve endings inside the cochlea).
Sensorineural hearing loss results in reduction of the following:
It also affects the ability to understand high-pitched voices and sounds such as birds singing. Hearing aids are usually a preferred solution for this type of hearing loss.
Sensorineural hearing loss can be congenital (present at birth) or acquired later in life. Common congenital causes include the following:
Later-in-life causes may include the following:
Medications with side effects that damage ears
Conductive hearing loss usually results from diseases or disorders that interrupt the sound transmission from the outer and/or middle ear into the inner ear. In cases where the conductive hearing loss is temporary, it is often possible to correct the condition with surgery, medication, or both. In other situations, hearing aids can significantly improve hearing.
Common causes of conductive hearing loss include the following:
With conductive hearing loss, the inner ear works properly but something is keeping sound from passing through the outer/middle ear to the inner ear.
Some people have a mix of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Treatment options will likely include both medical intervention and hearing aids
You might be able to hear well out of one ear and not at all out of the other. Single-sided deafness—also known as unilateral hearing loss—can make it hard to understand speech in loud environments or localize sound. You might miss important alerts or conversation coming from the side without hearing and find understanding speech a challenge
Now that you know more about the different forms hearing loss can take, find out how it can affect your life — emotionally, physically, and professionally.