Hearing loss (auditory perception loss) is a relatively common condition that affects approximately one in seven people in Australia. In 2017, a study esimated the prevelance of hearing loss in Australia to be 3.6 million people (The Social and Economic cost of Hearing Loss in Australia, June 2017 (The Social and Economic cost of Hearing Loss in Australia, June 2017).
Every day we take our hearing for granted and overlook the crucial role it plays in how we operate and function daily.
How the Ear Works
The outer ear captures sound which then travels down the ear canal to the eardrum, causing it to vibrate. The vibrations then pass to the small bones of the middle ear, which increase the loudness of the sounds before they reach the inner ear. Within the inner ear, small hair cells move and release a chemical telling the auditory nerve to send an electric signal to the brain. The brain translates the electrical signal into what we know as sound.
Signs of Hearing Loss
There are many signs that your ears may not be functioning properly. You may find:
- Family and friends report that you don’t hear as well as you used to
- Difficulty communicating with background noise
- Television volumes need to be higher than other family members prefer
- You have to ask people to repeat themselves
- People seem to mumble on a regular basis
- Difficulty hearing on the telephone
- Communication breakdown and relationship strain with your spouse or significant other
- You withdraw from social situations
- Increased tiredness or stressed from trying to hear
- It is easier to understand others when you are looking directly at their faces
- You responded inappropriately because you did not understand someone’s question
- Turning one ear towards the speaker helps you to hear better
Types of Hearing Loss
The location of the problem within the ear usually identifies the type of auditory perception loss. In addition, someone may only have an impairment in one ear, known as ‘unilateral hearing loss’ or ‘single sided deafness’.
The three types of auditory perception loss are:
1. Sensorineural Loss
Sensorineural hearing losses are permanent. Damage to the hair cells of the cochlea (inner ear) is the most common sensorineural loss. Noise induced auditory perception loss and age-related auditory perception loss (presbycusis) are examples of a sensorineural loss.
2. Conductive Loss
Problems within the outer or middle ear may interfere with sound being transmitted to the inner ear. This is conductive hearing loss and can be temporary. An example of a conductive auditory perception loss is fluid in the middle ear.
3. Mixed Loss
This is auditory perception loss due to problems both in the outer/middle ear and the inner ear. Therefore, the hearing loss is made up of both a conductive and sensorineural loss.
Impact of Hearing Loss
Auditory perception impairment can occur at any age and has a major impact on your quality of life. It can become difficult for people to connect and communicate with those around them, resulting in feelings of isolation and declining self-confidence.
We understand that people tend to put off seeking treatment for hearing loss for a whole range of reasons. But several recent studies have shown that untreated auditory perception loss may increase the risk of falling, cognitive decline and dementia.
Even with mild auditory perception loss, your brain must work much harder to process a specific sound. This can impact your ability to remember the information. It is critical that you intervene in the early stages of auditory perception impairment to minimise the possible impact. For older people, a yearly hearing test will assist in identifying any auditory perception loss in its earliest stages. If auditory perception loss is detected, then early treatment will provide the best possible outcome.
Preventing Hearing Loss
The most common causes of auditory perception loss are aging and noise exposure. Once your auditory perception is damaged, it will not come back. Like sun exposure and skin damage, the amount of hearing damage is related to the intensity of the noise and the length of time you are exposed to it.
If you cannot avoid loud noise, hearing protection is the key. Noosa Hearing can provide custom made ear plugs to significantly reduce the noise to safe levels, whilst being comfortable in the ear.
Correct diagnosis and treatment of auditory perception loss will enable you to hear better, connect with your friends and family again and enjoy life to its fullest. We get great satisfaction from seeing our clients re-connect, feel included in the world around them again and feel good about themselves.