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Basics of Hearing Loss

Hearing is one of the senses human beings are blessed with. It begins with the sound waves traveling through the ear canal to the ear drum, ear bones and the inner ear, before reaching the brain for interpretation. In case of hearing loss, people not only face difficulty in understanding what others are saying but also leads to frustration, anxiety and depression. Some common causes of hearing loss include too much ear wax and cholesteatoma.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How Hearing Works.

The sense of hearing is another one of nature's miracles. It allows us to connect to people and things outside our line of sight. Helen Keller said that sight connects you with things, but hearing connects you to people.

When we speak we generate sound that travels in the form of sound waves that are then collected by the ear. The sound waves are then focused on the ear canal and travels down the ear canal, where it hits the ear drum. The ear drum vibrates in sync with the original sound and transfers the sound via the middle ear bones to the inner ear or cochlea. In the cochlea sound waves are converted to electrical impulses, which are then sent to the brain for interpretation. So essentially the ear is a microphone, while the brain is actually the organ that interprets what we hear.

When your hearing becomes impaired you don't immediately or even eventually go deaf. You simply start lossing subtle cues, which means your brain has to work much harder at filling in the blanks. This can present itself initially with becomming tired when in a socail environment. You may also be accussed of "Switching off" and not responding immediately when spoken to. Over time your brain may become deprived of sound information and this can lead to permanent changes in the brain relating to poorer understanding of speech if left untreated.

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Signs of Hearing loss

Hearing loss often develops so slowly that we hardly notice it at first, but over time we can simply not adjust to the amount of hearing loss and the signs start presenting themselves more noticeably. The first people to normally notice hearing loss are those closest to you and they would often point out that you are not listening or that they always have to repeat themselves. Those with developing hearing loss often would blame others for mumbling or not facing them when they speak.

Untreated hearing loss can have some significant quality of life implications such as:

  • Reduced income due to frequently missing opportunities, due to lack of confidence, not contributing to meetings etc.
  • Less social interactions due to difficulty hearing speech in noise
  • Reduced confidence in social interaction due to frequently mishearing conversation
  • Feeling exhausted in social interaction due to the amount of concentration required to hear "properly"
  • Social withdrawal
  • Depression
  • Anxiety in social situations
  • break down of interpersonal relationships
  • Anger from and towards others
  • Frustration

If you wish to determine with certainty whether or not you have hearing loss, book yourself in for a quick hearing check.

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Ear wax is a necessary part of  the outer ear and helps prevent fungal and bacterial infections, while keeping the ear canal lubricated. Normally the ear is self cleansing, but in some ears, this mechanism is impaired by excess ear hair or a smaller ear canal blocking the normal clearing of the wax. In these cases the wax could build up to such an extent to cause temporary hearing loss, requiring manual removal by your doctor or audiologist.

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Conductive hearing loss is hearing loss caused by a blockage of the outer or middle ear, preventing sound waves from reaching the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss often requires medical intervention and can range from very simple such a s too much ear wax right through to more serious conditions such as cholesteatoma which is a cyst growing into the middle ear. An audiologist performs several tests that may help identify a conductive hearing loss. If such a loss is identified then the appropriate referral would be made.

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Hearing Loss Overview

Hearing loss is the third most common medical complaint and falls into one of two main categories. The first category is conductive hearing loss, where a blockage in the outer or middle ear blocks sound waves from reaching the inner ear. The most common type of hearing loss is sensory neural hearing loss, where there is damage to the nerves of the inner ear, reducing the amount of sound information reaching the brain. Hearing aids are most often prescribed for sensory neural hearing loss, while medical intervention is often required for conductive hearing loss. One could also suffer from mixed hearing loss, where both a conductive and sensory neural hearing loss is present simultaneously.

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These facts and figures have been collated from a number of sources and Value Hearing & Tinnitus Solutions claims no ownership.

Interesting hearing, hearing aid and tinnitus facts:

  1. Hearing loss affects 1 in 6 Australians (total population).
  2. Hearing loss affects around 3 out of 4 Australians above 70 years of age.
  3. A total of about 3.55 million Australians suffer hearing loss.
  4. About 37% of hearing loss can be attributed to excessive noise exposure.
  5. About 75% of persons with hearing loss has it in both ears.
  6. Hearing aids lead to improved social lives, better interpersonal relationships and better reported health in most people with treated hearing loss compared to people with untreated hearing loss.
  7. The use of hearing aids is associated with improved perceptions of the hearing loss sufferer's mental ability.
  8. Self inflicted noise exposure (i.e. loud music and power tools) is overtaking work related noise exposure as a major cause of hearing loss.
  9. Hearing loss represents a financial cost to Australia of 1.4% of GDP per annum ($11.75 billion).
  10. Hearing loss directly leads to reduced quality of life and can cause psychological problems such as depression, anxiety, isolation, poor self image, paranoia, anger, frustration etc.
  11. Around 95% of people with hearing loss can be treated by hearing aids. Only about 5% can be treated through medical or surgical treatments.
  12. More males (16.1%) than females (9.7%) suffer from hearing loss.
  13. 100% of children with suffer a temporary hearing loss due to ear infections at least once before the age of 18 years.
  14. Untreated hearing loss has been shown to potentially negatively affect a person's income earning potential. Successful treatment of hearing loss is linked to increased earning power.
  15. Tinnitus can be a symptom of hearing loss or other auditory system disorders.
  16. 17% of the worlds population is affected by tinnitus (about 3.57 million Australians).
  17. About 30% of people over the age of 65 Years report tinnitus.
  18. More men than women experience tinnitus.
  19. 4% of people suffer significant tinnitus (about 840 000 people in Australia).
  20. The stapes or stirrup (the last bone in the middle ear chain) is the smallest bone in the human body
  21. Noise exposure is by far the most common cause of tinnitus perception.
  22. Many modern hearing aids can wirelessly connect to Bluetooth devices such as mobile phones or TV's (with appropriate adaptors).
  23. Digital hearing aids are literally small hearing computers performing thousands of calculations per second.
  24. Directional microphone systems on hearing aids are the most effective way of improving the understanding speech by a person with hearing loss in the presence of background noise. This requires sufficient space and cannot be fitted to the very small completely in the canal hearing aids.
  25. Most hearing aids these days have overcome issues with whistling very effectively by using special phase canceling algorithms.
  26. Modern digital hearing aids are constantly busy analyzing your acoustic environment and adjusting their features to ensure you get the best signal to noise ratio (to hear speech above other noise).
  27. We hear with the brain and not the ear. The ear is simply the brain's “microphone”.
  28. Customers report 92% satisfaction with hearing health care professionals.
  29. 90% of hearing aid users report an improvement in their quality of life.

Tinnitus is a ringing or another noise that you hear in your had or ears, which is not generated from the outside. It cannot be cured, but there are various techniques to help the sufferer effectively ignore and adjust to the tinnitus. Some people can achieve so much relief with appropriate help, that they do not hear their tinnitus unless they concentrate on it. The first step in identifying the cause of you tinnitus is to have your hearing tested as tinnitus is most often a symptom of hearing loss.You don't just have to live with it!

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Understanding your hearing test results

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