Hearing is our most critical sense when it comes to our ability to communicate, and even small degrees of hearing loss can have profound effects on how we interact and connect with others.
Being separated from that ability not only has consequences for our social lives — it can have physical effects, as well, that can detract significantly from overall health.
Life is enriched by the experiences we have through our five senses: sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing. Together, our senses enable us to learn and enjoy life. Hearing is especially vital; it enables us to communicate our wants, needs, and emotions.
You can’t reverse hearing loss or eliminate all Sound Voids™. However, your audiologist can apply the appropriate care and technology to lessen their effects and improve the quality of sounds you hear. Unfortunately, many people suffering from a hearing loss are either unaware or ashamed of their condition, and therefore, do not utilize the advanced hearing aid technology that is available in Fort Worth.
Why Binaural Hearing Is Important
Binaural hearing refers to the brain’s ability to integrate information from both ears at once, which greatly improves overall communication and the ability to understand where sounds come from in relation to your body’s position. Hearing with both ears helps us to listen in noisy, complex environments and to hear speech sounds in noise.
It’s difficult to get by with only one healthy ear (unilateral hearing loss), particularly in educational settings. For example, children with unilateral hearing loss are far more likely to be forced to repeat a grade. Additionally, individuals with unilateral hearing loss find that speech comprehension suffers greatly, falling to only about 30 to 35 percent of what can be heard with two healthy ears.
The loudness of sound is measured in decibels. Pitch is measured in frequency of sound vibrations per second. A deep voice has a low pitch and frequency, whereas a child’s voice has a high pitch and frequency.
The 3 Types of Hearing Loss
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SHL): SHL is typically the result of damage to the delicate hair cells in the inner-ear organ (the cochlea) that are responsible for picking up sounds. When these hair cells — or the nerves they connect to — are damaged or destroyed by repeated exposure to loud noise, hearing becomes more difficult. Because hearing damage usually affects the highest frequencies first, loud-noise exposure can result in permanent high-frequency hearing loss.
- Conductive Hearing Loss: This type of hearing loss is typically the result of an infection or blockage in the outer or middle ear. Otitis media (middle-ear infections) can sometimes cause difficulty hearing due to a fluid buildup. Swimmer’s ear or a buildup of earwax may create a blockage outside the eardrum. This type of hearing loss is typically reversible once the infection or blockage clears, or once necessary surgery is performed.
- Mixed Hearing Loss: Individuals with mixed hearing loss typically suffer from some combination of SHL and a semi-permanent conductive hearing loss, such as a malfunction of one of the ossicles (tiny bones that conduct sound) in the middle ear. Hearing may improve after the conductive portion of the hearing loss is resolved through treatment or surgery. SHL is usually permanent.
Other Forms of Hearing Loss
- Unilateral Hearing Loss: Hearing loss that occurs in only one ear is referred to as unilateral hearing loss. This can be present at birth, may happen spontaneously, or can occur over the course of several days (referred to as sudden hearing loss). Unilateral hearing loss may delay or otherwise affect speech and language development, and children may have difficulty identifying where sounds are coming from (localization), hearing speech in noisy situations, and hearing from longer distances. Children who are born with unilateral hearing loss can achieve success academically, economically, and socially by focusing on communication development.
- Sudden Hearing Loss: This is a sudden loss of hearing, either entirely or partially, within a 24-hour period — or immediately. Degrees of deafness vary, and while sudden hearing loss typically resolves itself within two weeks, it’s possible that hearing may never return. Treatment may include steroids to support the recovery of hearing, but patients who see no change within two weeks are unlikely to see improvement. Those who suffer from a sudden hearing loss should consult their physician immediately, as faster treatment greatly increases chances of a full recovery. About 85 percent of those who seek treatment will recover some of their hearing.
- High-Frequency Hearing Loss: In the first stages of hearing loss, the high frequencies are usually lost first. Therefore, difficulty hearing or understanding high-pitched voices of women and children is one of the first symptoms. It is important to recognize that hearing someone and understanding them are two different things. High-frequency hearing loss distorts sound, which makes speech difficult to understand even if it can be heard.
People with hearing loss often have difficulty differentiating words that sound alike, especially words that contain S, F, SH, CH, H, TH, T, K or soft C sounds. These consonants are in a much higher frequency range than vowels and other consonants.
Avoiding loud noise may help prevent premature hearing loss and the perception of Sound Voids™. There are easy ways to identify if a particular sound is potentially harmful.
Do you have difficulty talking or hearing others talk over the sound?
Does the sound make your ears hurt?
Do your ears ring after hearing the sound?
Do other sounds seem muffled after exposure?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, the noise may be damaging your hearing. Most people don’t realize how loud everyday sounds actually are. Sounds above 85 dB are harmful depending on how long and how often you are exposed to them. The louder a sound is, the lower the amount of exposure is required to cause damage. If used properly, hearing protection devices can reduce the loudness of sound reaching the ears.