Hearing is surely familiar to us, but how about hearing loss (hearing impairment)? Hearing loss is a problem that is caused by aging, noise, heredity, or disease. Hearing is one complex sense that involves both the ability of the ear to detect different sounds and the ability of the brain to interpret sounds.
This happens when a part of the ear (one or both) has a problem. A person who is suffering from a hearing loss may hear some sounds or none at all. The words like deafness, deaf, or hard of hearing are commonly used when discussing hearing loss. In 1,000 babies, 3 of them are born with a hearing impairment which makes it the most common type of birth defect. At some point, hearing problems can also be developed in the latter part of life.
In order to better understand how and why a hearing loss takes place, it would help to understand how the ear functions. The ear is composed of different sections divided into three: the outer, middle, and inner ear. These parts work for a person to hear and process the sounds. The pinna (outer ear) is responsible for picking up the sound waves and these sound waves then travel to the outer ear canal.
When these sound waves reach the eardrum that can be found in the middle ear, the eardrum will begin to vibrate. When it vibrates, three tiny bones in the ear are moving. These bones are hammer (malleus), stirrup (stapes), an anvil (incus). These bones help the sound to move along to its journey going to the inner ear.
The vibrations go to the cochlea. This part is filled with cells and it is lined with cells that are composed of thousands of tiny hairs on the surface. These types of hair cells are the inner and outer cells. And these tiny hairs move due to the sound vibration. The outer cells get sound information, amplify, and tune it. On the other hand, the inner cells are responsible for sending sound information to the hearing nerve, then sends it to the brain and allows the person to hear.
Hearing loss may happen when a person is born with having some parts of the ear that did not form properly and are not functioning well. However, other reasons could be due to the following: middle ear fluid, head injury, serious infections like meningitis, exposure to very loud sound, etc. In some cases, children who had ear infections may suffer from hearing loss as well.
When it comes to hearing loss, the kind of treatment may vary depending on the severity and the other needs of the person. Some of the most common treatments would include medicine, hearing aids, operations, and other kinds of assistive listening devices that will help people to hear better and emphasize voices in noisy environments. With treatment, people would be able to hear normally.
A hearing aid is like a tiny amplifier. This helps people hear better, as well as pick up sounds for them to hear clearer. A hearing aid helps deliver an amplified sound from the eardrum and the middle ear going to the cochlea or the inner ear. On the other, for people who still could not hear despite the help of a hearing aid, a cochlear implant device is used. This is a tiny piece of electronic equipment that is being placed in the cochlea during the operation. This turns the sounds into electrical signals which directly stimulate the hearing nerve.
The hearing loss problem can be inborn, however, for those who were born normal, prevention is very important. One needs to be aware and as much as possible avoid harmful noises which can anywhere- at the home, workplace, or in other settings. If one will be exposed to harmful noises, it’s necessary to use hearing protectors like earmuffs or earplugs. In addition, controlling the volume of a sound is helpful. You can reduce the volume of your TV, stereo, car radio, and other listening devices.
Moreover, do not wait before you protect yourself. Once the damage is done, it cannot be reversed. Be conscious of your environment and identify the things that have the potential to cause hearing loss and other hearing problems.