About Hearing Loss

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Many people suffer from hearing loss…and we’re not just talking about the people whose hearing is affected. Hearing loss affects friends, family, co-workers, business associates, and everyone a person with a hearing problem comes into contact with. Read on for information about hearing loss, communications tips and more from Audiologist Carol Hawkins, Au.D.

Hearing Loss Information from a Doctor of Audiology

Many people suffer from hearing loss…and we’re not just talking about the people whose hearing is affected. Hearing loss affects friends, family, co-workers, business associates, and everyone a person with a hearing problem comes into contact with.

The effects of hearing loss are felt across a wide group of people. Hearing loss is growing as a problem in our ever noisier world. In fact, the latest available statistics show that over 10% of the U.S. population reports difficulty hearing! That’s more than 31 million people! And as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, that number promises to increase dramatically!

The Numbers Explain the Need for Hearing Aids & Assistive Listening Devices
Are you someone who no longer hears as well as you once did? If so, you are certainly not alone. Consider these statistics reported by Sergei Kochkin, Ph.D., former Executive Director of the Better Hearing Institute:

  • 3 in 10 people over age 60 have hearing loss
  • 1 in 6 baby boomers (ages 41-59), or 14.6%, have a hearing problem
  • 1 in 14 Generation Xers (ages 29-40), or 7.4%, already have hearing loss
  • At least 1.4 million children (18 or younger) have hearing problems
  • Estimates say 3 in 1,000 infants are born with serious to profound hearing loss

In addition, studies have linked untreated hearing loss to emotional, physical, mental, psychological and even economic disadvantages! And, to make matters even worse, there are many “myths” about hearing loss that prevent those with hearing loss from doing anything about it.

Hearing Loss, The Types and Causes

Hearing loss rarely occurs in a single event. Most hearing loss occurs gradually. Seeing its early warning signs is key in creating more effective treatment solutions, so we’ve compiled a list of indicators that should help you and your loved ones be more aware of your hearing wellness. You can also take our 5 minute hearing test to see if you might have a problem.

  • High frequency sounds, like the voices of women and children, are hard to hear
  • People often complain your TV or radio is too loud
  • You avoid your favorite places and activities because conversations are too exhausting
  • Companions often have to repeat themselves during a conversation
  • You have to consciously adjust your posture and position in order to hear conversations at parties and restaurants
  • The location of sounds are increasingly difficult to determine

Does this sound like you or anyone you know?

If so, it could indicate a hearing difficulty. Our recommendation is to schedule a hearing evaluation. The earlier you receive a diagnosis, the better. Our staff of experienced providers uses the most effective hearing-testing techniques to ensure you get accurate and easy-to-understand results.

Contact us today for a free hearing screening. Call for yourself, call for a loved one. We can customize better hearing solutions for a wide variety of hearing difficulties.

Having a hearing loss or hearing impairment means that your ability to hear has been diminished. There are many causes of hearing loss but it’s believed the most common cause is the ageing process. The name given for age related hearing loss is presbyacusis or acquired hearing loss. Presbyacusis is a subset of what is known as Sensorineural hearing loss. What is commonly called Nerve Deafness.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the tiny hair cells in your cochlea (inner ear) that detect sound are injured, diseased, do not work correctly, or have died. Those haircells are in fact nerve endings that are responsible for send electrical stimulation to the brain. This type of hearing loss can’t be reversed at this time.

Sensorineural hearing loss is commonly caused by:

  • Presbyacusis.
  • Acoustic neuroma.
  • Childhood infections, such as meningitis, mumps, scarlet fever, and measles.
  • Meniere’s disease.

Regular exposure to loud noise which is called noise induced hearing loss. Noise exposure accelerates the natural deterioration of our hearing. Noise can do terrible and permenant damage.

A sensorineural hearing loss reduces the ability to hear faint sounds or discriminate speech. Even when speech is loud enough to hear, it may still be unclear or sound muffled. Speech is exceptionally difficult to hear in most cases if there are any competing sounds such as background noise.


Presbyacusis is an acquired sensorineural hearing loss which affects older people. Presbyacusis usually affects the mid and high frequencies, affecting speech discrimination.

Presbyacusis is a gradual process, many factors could contribute to hearing loss such as noise in work, loud music, general environmental noise if you live in a noisy city, diet, ototoxic drugs, smoking, heart disease and stress.

Hearing loss affects around 10% of the population. In Ohio it means there are around 400,000 people with a hearing problem or hearing impairment. Only a small number of those who need a hearing aid system actually use one, putting themselves at many disadvantages and greatly reducing their quality of life.

There are many consequences of hearing loss physical, social and physiological. Hearing loss can lead to problems such as social exclusion, isolation from family and friends, depression, anger, stress, irritability, withdrawal, loneliness, embarrassment, denial, boredom, social rejection, feelings of inadequacy, misinformation, increased irritability, anxiety and fatigue.

Conductive Hearing Loss

Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is not conducted efficiently through the outer ear canal to the eardrum and the tiny bones (ossicles) of the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss usually involves a reduction in sound level or the ability to hear faint sounds. Some possible causes of conductive hearing loss are:

  • Fluid in the middle ear.
  • Ear infection (otitis media).
  • Perforated eardrum.
  • Impacted earwax.
  • Infection in the ear canal.
  • Swimmer’s Ear.
  • Presence of a foreign body.
  • Absence or malformation of the outer ear, ear canal, or middle ear.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Sometimes a conductive hearing loss occurs in combination with a sensorineural hearing loss. In other words, there may be damage in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve. When this occurs, the hearing loss is referred to as a mixed hearing loss.

Untreated hearing loss has a great affect on life and relationships causing isolation and depression. There is a solution for almost everyone with a hearing loss, so if you think you have a problem get a hearing test and look at solutions. Nobody should suffer on

How Hearing Works

The Outer Ear

Hearing is a complex process. To put it simply, when something makes a noise, it sends sound waves through the air. These waves are funnelled into the ear canal by the outer ear, and the sound waves strike the eardrum and cause it to vibrate.

The Middle Ear

At the end of the auditory canal lies the tympanic membrane (ear drum) and the middle ear. Within the middle ear cavity is contained the ossicles, the three small bones, known by the layman as the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup. When sound waves hit the eardrum, it vibrates and, in turn, moves the hammer. The hammer moves the anvil, which moves the stirrup, transmitting the vibrations into the inner ear. The middle ear functions to amplify sound, which is why significant hearing loss can result from any disruption in any of its parts.

The Inner Ear

The inner ear consists of the cochlea and the vestibular (balance) system. The cochlea converts sound waves into nerve impulses that travel to the brain via the movement of tiny hair cells. It is the brain that allows you to hear…as long as the message it is receiving is not distorted due to problems in the process just described.

Communication Tips for Those with Hearing Loss*

Even with the best hearing aids there will be times when you misunderstand what someone has said. To minimize the frustrations that may occur when this happens, try the following:

Watch the speaker

An optimal distance for communication is three to six feet. Position yourself so that the speaker’s face is well lit and so that light is not in your eyes. Watch the speaker’s face for expressions and lip movements that can add to the meaning of what you hear.

If you miss something that was said, ask for repetition

Tell the speaker why you misunderstood so that the message is not repeated in the same fashion. For example: “Please repeat that a bit more slowly.” Provide guidance so that they do not need to repeat the full message. For example: “What time did you say you were going to visit your sister on Saturday?” This requires a much more brief response than “Huh?”

Minimize noise distractions

Noisy areas can create difficult listening situations, even for those with normal hearing. When possible, turn off competing sound sources (TV, radio, dishwasher, etc.) or move away from the noise source. If your hearing aids have directional microphones, make sure to position yourself with your back to the noise source.

Pay attention to the context or subject of the conversation

The context of the conversation can often help you to fill in words you may have missed.

Write out important information

Instructions, or key words such as addresses telephone numbers, measurements, dollar figures and so on should be written down to avoid confusion.

Do not bluff

Bluffing robs you of opportunities to practice good communication skills. Not informing others about your hearing loss increases the occurrence of misinterpretations and the possibility of damaged relationships.

Suggestions When Speaking to Someone with Hearing Loss

Do not shout

Shouting can actually distort the signal in the listener’s ears. Be sure the listener has a clear view of your face so that facial expressions and lip movements are visible and speak slightly louder than normal.

Speak clearly and slowly

Pausing between sentences can also be helpful. The best distance for communication is three to six feet.

Make sure you have the listener’s attention

Saying the person’s name and waiting for a response can greatly decrease the need for repetition.

Rephrase your statements if needed

Quite often, the same one or two words in a sentence will continue to be misheard with each repetition. Rephrasing eliminates many frustrations.

Avoid conversation if there is much background noise

Noisy distractions can create difficult listening situations even for those with normal hearing. Always invite the person with hearing loss to a quieter side of the room, or turn off the noise distractions.

Remain patient, positive and relaxed

Communication can be difficult sometimes. When communication partners become impatient, negative and tense, communication will become more difficult. When in doubt, ask the person with hearing loss for suggestions of ways to be better understood.

*From Hearing Loss magazine September/October 2002

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