Hearing Aids And Treatment

Sounds are formed any time an object creates vibrations. These vibrations travel through the air, just as ripples travel across water. Hearing begins when the vibrations reach the outer ear, which functions as a funnel, collecting these sound vibrations and directing them toward the eardrum.

As sound vibrations are picked up by the ear drum, they are transferred to a series of three tiny bones in the middle ear. These bones further amplify the vibrations of the eardrum, and transfer them to a sensory organ in the inner ear, called the cochlea. The inside of the cochlea is filled with fluid, and lined with tens of thousands of tiny hair cells.

As vibrations pass through the fluid, it causes movement of these hair cells. This motion causes electrical signals to be sent along a specialized nerve, which are then processed into the sounds we hear.

How Hearing Works?

Sounds are formed any time an object creates vibrations. These vibrations travel through the air, just as ripples travel across water. Hearing begins when the vibrations reach the outer ear, which functions as a funnel, collecting these sound vibrations and directing them toward the eardrum. As sound vibrations are picked up by the ear drum, they are transferred to a series of three tiny bones in the middle ear.

These bones further amplify the vibrations of the eardrum, and transfer them to a sensory organ in the inner ear, called the cochlea. The inside of the cochlea is filled with fluid, and lined with tens of thousands of tiny hair cells. As vibrations pass through the fluid, it causes movement of these hair cells. This motion causes electrical signals to be sent along a specialized nerve, which are then processed into the sounds we hear.

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Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is the total or partial inability to hear sound in one or both ears. Hearing loss falls into two major categories. The first category, called conductive hearing loss, occurs in the outer and middle ear, when the transmission of sound vibrations is prevented from reaching the inner ear.

Examples of this are having too much wax in the ear, a hole in the eardrum, or fluid behind the eardrum. The second category, called sensory-neural hearing loss, occurs in the inner ear, when sound vibrations are unable to be converted into electrical signals that the brain can process. An example of this is hearing that is diminished or lost due to exposure to loud noise, genetics, medications, or the natural aging process. You and your doctor or hearing professional may discuss the many possible options for improving hearing.

Signs of Hearing Loss

Some measurable form of hearing loss occurs as you age. Hearing loss is the third most common disease amongst adults, and it can have a variety of causes. Hearing loss can negatively impact one’s quality of life, personal relationships, and, of course, the ability to communicate.

People typically wait seven years between knowing they have a hearing problem, and doing something about it, and it is usually a loved one who notices first. There are tens of millions of people throughout the world with some type of hearing loss, and 90 to 95 percent of these cases can be treated successfully, with properly fitted hearing aids. If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing hearing loss, see a doctor or hearing professional for a complete evaluation.

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Hearing Aids

A hearing aid is a small electronic device that you wear in or behind your ear. Hearing aids work by collecting sounds from the environment through microphones, processing the sounds to help separate what you want to hear, from the background noise, and then directing this processed signal into your ear, using a speaker. Hearing aids come in three basic styles, those that fit behind the ear, those that fit inside the outer ear, and those that fit within the ear canal. The hearing aid that will work best for you depends on the type, and severity of your hearing loss. You and your doctor or hearing professional should select a hearing aid that best suits your needs and lifestyle.

Choosing the Right Hearing Aid

Digital hearing aids amplify sounds by utilizing a computer chip, to convert incoming sounds, into digital information, then analyzing and adjusting the sound, based on an individuals hearing loss, and listening needs. Digital hearing aids are available with various levels of technology, each designed to fit your lifestyle and listening needs. Your doctor or hearing professional will help you choose the hearing aid that’s right for you.

Hearing Aids: Two Are Better Than One

In most cases, it’s better to have two hearing aids rather than one. Wearing two hearing aids allows more information to reach your brain, and makes it easier to hear speech against background noise. With two hearing aids, you will enjoy more balanced hearing, and you will be more able to tell where a sound is coming from. In much the same way you would wear two corrective eyeglass lenses to treat a vision problem, it makes sense to fully address hearing loss in both ears, with two hearing aids. Talk to your doctor or hearing professional about your options.

Other Considerations for Hearing Aids

Some people are concerned that hearing aids will make them look older, or change how they are perceived. People try to compensate for hearing loss by guessing at what is being said, or by using visual cues to make up for their loss of hearing. Wearing a hearing aid is much less noticeable than routinely asking people to repeat themselves. The truth is that a properly fit hearing aid can greatly enhance your ability to interact with others. By wearing a hearing aid daily, and maintaining it, you’ll likely notice significant improvements in your quality of life. The first step is to talk to your doctor, or hearing professional, about your hearing.

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Cochlear Implants

A cochlear implant is a medical device that restores hearing function in individuals who have severe to profound hearing loss. In contrast to a hearing aid, which simply makes sounds louder, a cochlear implant takes the place of parts in the inner ear that are not working properly. The cochlear implant has two primary parts, the processor, and the implant. The processor is the piece outside of the body that picks up sounds, processes them, and sends signals to the implant. The implant is the piece inside the body. It is placed behind the ear during surgery and receives signals and sends them to the hearing nerves, bypassing the damaged portions of the inner ear.

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