Hearing loss - information on hearing lossHearing loss is one of the most common conditions affecting older adults. One in three people over 60 and half of those over 85 have a hearing loss. Hearing problems can make it difficult to understand and follow medical advice, to respond to the warnings, and to hear doorbells and alarms.
The gradual loss of hearing that occurs as we age (presbycusis) is a common condition. It is estimated that a quarter of Americans aged between 65 and 75 years and around three quarters of those over 75 have some degree of hearing loss.
Hearing aids are like tiny amplifiers. They help someone hear sounds better and can even pick up the sounds so that children hear what is clearer. Headphones deliver amplified sounds (via sound vibrations) from the eardrum and middle ear to the inner ear or cochlea. Hearing aid technology is available that can adjust the sound volume automatically.
The inner ear consists of a structure called the cochlea, which is shaped like a turtle shell. The cochlea is filled with fluid that contains tiny cells called hair cells. The vibrations of the ossicles pass through a small window in the cochlea, and the liquid which transmits the movement to the hair cells. The movement of these hair cells generates an electrical signal that is transmitted to the brain via the auditory nerve.
The cochlea is a structure surrounded by inner ear fluid. It contains multiple small hairs. Pressure waves in the liquid that causes the hair to move. This movement stimulates the auditory nerve. Different noise frequencies stimulate different hairs in the cochlea, which translates to feeling different tone sounds.
Two main types of hearing loss. One happens when your inner ear or auditory nerve is damaged. This type is permanent. The other kind happens when sound waves can not reach your inner ear. Earwax buildup of fluid or a punctured eardrum can cause. If left untreated, hearing problems may worsen. If you have trouble hearing, you can get help. Possible treatments include hearing aids, special training, certain medications and surgery.
The volume of sound is measured in units called decibels. For example, the hum of a refrigerator is 40 decibels, normal conversation is about 60 decibels, and the big cities traffic noise can be 85 decibels. Sources of noise that can cause NIHL include motorcycles, firecrackers, and small firearms, all emitting sounds from 120 to 150 decibels. Long or repeated exposure to or above 85 decibels sounds can cause hearing loss. The louder the sound, the shorter the time period before NIHL can occur.
When a unilateral hearing loss is suspected, it is important to see an audiologist for a full hearing evaluation to determine the exact degree and type of hearing loss. It is also important to see an otolaryngologist, a doctor who specializes in diseases of the ear. The doctor will determine whether hearing loss is medically treatable and whether or not associated with any other health problems.
Impairments in hearing can occur in either frequency or intensity, or both. Hearing loss severity is based on how well a person can hear the frequencies or intensities most often associated with speech. Gravity can be described as mild, moderate, severe or profound. The term deaf is sometimes used to describe someone who has an approximately 90 dB or greater hearing loss or who can not use hearing to process speech and language information, even with the use of hearing aids.