How we hear

Simply put, our ears detect sound waves and the sound waves are translated to the brain by nerve impulses for interpretation.

More specifically, our outer ear (the auricle and ear canal) funnel sound waves to our middle ear. In the middle ear, the eardrum is caused to vibrate by the sound waves. Those vibrations continue on through three tiny connected bones. The eardrum and connected bones cause fluid in the inner ear to move as well. That fluid then causes thousands of hair-like cells to move. The vibrations, or movement, is then translated into nerve impulses which are carried to the brain by the auditory nerve. What we hear as sound is the brain’s interpretation of this process.

How we lose our hearing

Aging and exposure to noise are the two most common ways we lose our hearing. Hearing loss can also be a result of drugs, infections or disease such as high blood pressure. Other reasons for hearing loss are injuries, or physical damage, as well as genetic inheritance.

Significant loss of hearing, due to age, can begin as early as 20-30 years old. Loss of hearing due to expose of noise can be caused by everything from concerts to guns to drills, just to name a few. Hearing loss due to injuries are anything from head trauma to sticking something too far into the ear canal. Genetic inheritance hearing loss is usually something a person is born with.

Today’s technology has advanced to the point that nearly 99% of the different types of hearing loss can be helped, improved or eradicated.

How we prevent hearing loss or slow the progress

The single most effective way to prevent hearing loss is to avoid excessive noise. Additionally, wearing hearing protection in areas where excessive noise is unavoidable can be highly effective. Studies show a connection between age, noise exposure, smoking and hearing loss. Buildup of earwax can also create hearing loss and should be dealt with properly and/or by a professional. Some medications can damage your hearing. So, a thorough check by your doctor for potentially ototoxic interactions would be prudent. Have your hearing tested regularly if you have a family history of hearing loss, have troubles hearing, are around loud noises a lot or you have ringing sounds in your ears.

Ear muffs and ear plugs are a great way to help prevent hearing loss. If you spend any amount of time in an environment that has excessive noise we would be happy to consult with you on custom hearing protection options.

Hearing Loss Prevention Resources

Council for Accreditation in Occupational Hearing Conservation (CAOHC)

Dangerous Decibels

Hearing Education and Awareness for Rockers- H.E.A.R.

National Association of the Deaf

National Hearing Conservation Association


Treatment for Hearing Loss

It would seem that hearing treatment is a second-rate priority when compared to vision in our visually oriented modern society. People with hearing loss delay hearing impairment treatment because they are unaware of the fact that receiving early hearing treatment has the potential to literally transform their lives.

Hearing Aids

Research by the National Council on the Aging on more than 2,000 people with hearing loss as well as their significant others demonstrated that hearing aids clearly are associated with impressive improvements in the social, emotional, psychological, and physical well-being of people with hearing loss in all hearing loss categories from mild to severe. Specifically, hearing aid usage is positively related to the following quality of life issues. Hearing loss treatment was shown to improve:

  • Earning power

  • Communication in relationships

  • Intimacy and warmth in family relationships Ease in communication

  • Emotional stability

  • Sense of control over life events

  • Perception of mental functioning

  • Physical health

Learn the various types of hearing aids available including which aids are better according to the type of hearing loss.

Assistive Listening Devices

Detailed Discussion on The Impact of Treated Hearing Loss on Quality of Life (Links to BHI’s “The Impact of Treated Hearing Loss on Quality of Life”)

Many auditory and non-auditory devices — collectively known at assistive listening technology, assistive listening devices(ALDs), or hearing assistance technology (HAT) — are available to help people with all degrees of hearing loss. Assistive listening devices help people facilitate various forms of communication including electronic media, telephone reception and much more.

Audiological Advances for Hearing Loss Treatment

Continued research in the field of hearing loss coupled with technological advancements has created breakthroughs in the identification of how we hear. This greater understanding has led to audiological advances for hearing loss treatment making help available for almost anyone with hearing loss.

Medical Advances for Hearing Loss Treatment

Between 5 and 10% of people with hearing loss are not candidates for hearing aids. When conventional amplification is not a viable solution, alternative options are considered with Hearing Loss Counseling

Hearing loss counseling is an important facet in overall hearing loss treatment; for most people hearing aids are not enough. Speaking with a qualified professional or people who also suffer from hearing loss are great ways to learn more about coping with losing your own hearing.