How We Hear

Many individuals often ask the question “What is hearing loss and how does it really affect me?” A person with hearing loss generally is able to hear some sounds very well while others seem muted, faint or not at all. 4 out of every 1,000 babies are born with hearing loss, making it one of the most common birth defects in the United States. To further understand what hearing loss is, it helps to understand how we hear. Sound waves entering the ear canal are directed to the eardrum, which conducts vibrations through the small bones of the middle ear to the cochlea. The cochlea is a snail shaped organ, known as the organ of hearing, and is lined with thousands of tiny little hair cells. Each hair cell or nerve ending responds to certain sound frequencies that send nerve impulses to the brain which are interpreted as sounds.

ear anatomy hearing

So your brain actually does the hearing, the ears are simply the mechanism to convert sound energy outside your head to nerve impulses your brain translates into sounds. Any sound impulse in your right ear is sent to the left side of your brain and any sound impulse in your left ear is sent to the right side of your brain.

Untreated Hearing Loss

If you or a loved one is suffering from untreated hearing loss there are some important facts you should know. Not being able to hear can have long term health consequences aside from creating the obvious communication problems. A number of studies have shown that not being able to hear is linked to brain atrophy in older adults which directly increases your risk of conditions like Alzheimer’s or Dementia. If you or someone you care about is suffering please take action today. The cannot afford to continue putting hearing loss on the back burner of your health care needs.

Untreated Hearing Loss Can Affect the Following:

  • Intimacy and warmth in family relationships
  • General communication
  • Sense of control over your life
  • Social participation
  • Perception of mental functioning
  • Emotional stability
  • Communication in relationships
  • Untreated hearing loss may increase your risk of Alzheimer’s. (Archives of Neurology Feb. 2012)
  • Mild hearing loss linked to brain atrophy in older adults (Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania Aug. 2011)
  • Hearing Loss is twice as common in adults with diabetes (Annals of Internal Medicine July 2008)

Types of Hearing Loss

Age, noise exposure, disease, medication, trauma, and heredity or all common causes of hearing loss. Your hearing is a very complex sense and actually the most important one that you have. Most people would suggest their eyes to be the most important sense. But when you think about it, your eyes keep you in touch with objects or things. Your ears keep you in touch with people. There are three basic types of hearing loss:

Sensorineural: The most common type, it occurs when nerves in the cochlea are damaged and do not properly transmit auditory signals to the brain. This type is typically caused because of age or noise exposure and is very correctable with hearing instruments.

Conductive: Is typically the result of obstructions in the ear such as wax or physiological problems to the mechanics of the eardrum or small bones of the middle ear. In some cases these issues can be treated medically or surgically.

Mixed: A combination of sensorineural and conductive.

Ringing or buzzing in the ear(s) is often associated with hearing loss. Many individuals suffer from these sounds and it can range from barely noticeable to extremely annoying. 80% of patients who have ringing and wear hearing instruments indicate a significant reduction in the sensation while wearing the devices. 15% of patients indicate that the hearing instruments made noticeable reductions to the ringing sensation, while 5% say there was no measurable benefit. So the vast majority of hearing instrument wearers enjoyed the reduced ringing sensation by wearing their hearing aids daily.

A free diagnostic hearing examination from My Hearing Centers can determine what type of hearing loss you have and what steps are necessary to correct the problem. My Hearing Centers has locations in Arizona, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah, California, and Wyoming. Please contact a location nearest you to learn more hearing loss and improving your hearing.


Brain Tissue Loss Accelerated by Hearing Loss – Johns Hopkins Medicine

Johns Hopkins Medicine released a study concerning the effects of hearing loss on the brain. It states that the shrinkage of the brain associated with aging is accelerated in older adults with hearing loss. The findings add to a growing list of health concerns already associated with hearing loss such as dementia, hospitalizations and reduced physical and mental health as a whole.

Analysis of their sample showed that participants who already had hearing loss, saw an accelerated rate of atrophy of the brain compared to those who had normal hearing. The study suggests that those with hearing loss saw increased shrinkage of the brain by an additional cubic centimeter as each year of the loss went on. This shrinkage was primarily in the superior, middle and inferior temporal gyri, a brain structure responsible for processing sound and speech. These areas also engage in roles concerning memory and sensory integration which has been shown to be involved in cognitive impairment as well as Alzheimer’s disease.

Dr. Frank Lin, the primary author, says, “If you want to address hearing loss well… do it sooner rather than later. If hearing loss is potentially contributing to these differences we’re seeing on MRI, you want to treat it before these brain structural changes take place.”

To read the full study Click Here

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