Hearing loss & its types
The hearing pathway is divided into three sections that play an important and unique part of our ability to hear and process sound. These sections are shown below:
• Outer Ear = This is made up of the pinna (auricle) and ear canal (external auditory meatus). The pinna captures sounds and funnels the sound waves down the ear canal to the eardrum (tympanic membrane). The eardrum is extremely sensitive, this sensitivity is key, as sound waves vibrate the eardrum which is then transmitted to the middle ear.
• Middle Ear = This is the home to the bones (Ossicles or Ossicular chain); the tympanic (middle ear) cavity; and the Eustachian tube. The Eustachian tube connects the ear to the mouth, its main function is to equalize pressure inside and outside the ear. The popping sensation of your ears while flying or swimming is the build-up and release of pressure in this tube!
• Inner Ear = The inner ear is where sounds are processed. It consists of the Cochlea (sensory organs of hearing), Vestibule (balance mechanisms) and the Auditory nerve. Once the vibrations have made their way through the membranes of the middle ear they enter the inner ear’s labyrinth of tubes and passages, to the cochlea. The cochlea turns these sound wave vibrations into electrical signals and transmits them through the auditory nerve to the brain for processing and understanding.
Hearing is an essential part of how we communicate and interact with our surrounding environment. Our hearing abilities start in our ears with the channelling of sound along the hearing pathway, travelling down the ear canal, which is then turned into electrical signals that our brain recognizes and processes.
Hearing loss or impairment is a sudden or gradual reduction in your ability to hear speech and other sounds. Hearing loss is common and is caused by many factors but, is most commonly caused by ageing and noise damage.
“One in six Australians is affected by hearing loss... With an ageing population, hearing loss is projected to increase to 1 in every 4 Australians by 2050” [Access Economics, Listen Hear! The economic impact and cost of hearing loss in Australia, (February 2006), p. 5.]
Types of Hearing loss:
• A conductive hearing loss is caused by a decreased efficiency of transmission of sound through the outer and/or middle ear. This can be due to wax (cerumen) in the ear canal, by infection, damage to or stiffening of the ossicles in the middle ear, a perforated eardrum and abnormal bony growth within the ear and so on.
• A sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the structures inside the cochlear and neural pathways. It can arise in many ways for example due to exposure to high levels of noise, by infection, as a result of genetic factors, trauma, ageing (presbyacusis), and metabolic disturbances and so on.
• A mixed hearing loss is when both conductive and sensorineural hearing losses are present in the same ear.
signs of hearing loss
In most cases, hearing loss develops gradually. Because of the slow process more often than not we, tend to adapt to the change and may not realise that we no longer hear as well as we used to. In some cases, family members, partners, friends, and co-workers may notice it first before the individual themselves.
Some of the first signs people notice are:
• The need to turn the volume of the television or the radio louder than family members or friends do
• A feeling that people are mumbling or they are not speaking clearly
• An increase in repetitions from your conversation partner
• Comments from friends or family that you are not hearing them well
• Difficulty hearing in the presence of background noise
• Missing parts of sentences
• Becoming more reliant on facial expressions and/or visual cues
• Avoiding social gatherings because of the difficulty to hear
• Problems understanding conversations over the telephone
If any of these sound familiar to you then it is highly recommended that you see an audiologist to check your hearing levels and investigate the cause of any hearing loss.
Hearing screening and hearing aids available now at our Bella Vista hearing clinic
The collective.care Hearing Clinic at Bella Vista offers an incredibly broad range of detailed treatments for ear and hearing related complaints. Our Audiologist has all the training and equipment to conduct standardised, comprehensive hearing tests and assess the results on the spot. We work with each patient to tailor a hearing loss management solution which suits your needs, lifestyle, and hearing goals. Where these solutions include hearing aids, our Audiologist will be able to recommend and dispense you an appropriate device.
Our Hearing Clinic also conducts hearing tests for a variety of non-medical reasons, such as to establish baseline hearing levels required for various law enforcement and aviation jobs.
Contact our clinic today on 1300 344 325 to discuss your options for affordable hearing tests, or book an online appointment here.