You may have hearing loss, and not even be aware of it. People of all ages experience gradual hearing loss, often due to the natural aging process or long exposure to loud noise. Other causes of hearing loss include viruses or bacteria, heart conditions or stroke, head injuries, tumors, and certain medications. Treatment for hearing loss will depend on your diagnosis.
How does the hearing sense work?
The aural or hearing-sense is a complex and intricate process. The ear is made up of three sections: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. These parts work together so you can hear and process sounds. The outer ear, or pinna (the part you can see), picks up sound waves and the waves then travel through the outer ear canal.
When the sound waves hit the eardrum in the middle ear, the eardrum starts to vibrate. When the eardrum vibrates, it moves three tiny bones in your ear. These bones are called the hammer (or malleus), anvil (or incus), and stirrup (or stapes). They help sound move along on its journey into the inner ear.
The vibrations then travel to the cochlea, which is filled with liquid and lined with cells that have thousands of tiny hairs on their surfaces. The sound vibrations make the tiny hairs move. The hairs then change the sound vibrations into nerve signals, so your brain can interpret the sound.
What can I do to improve my hearing?
- Eliminate or lower unnecessary noises around you.
- Let friends and family know about your hearing loss and ask them to speak slowly and more clearly.
- Ask people to face you when they are speaking to you, so you can watch their faces and see their expressions.
- Utilize sound amplifying devices on phones.
- Use personal listening systems to reduce background noise.
Tips to maintain hearing health
- If you work in noisy places or commute to work in noisy traffic or construction, choose quiet leisure activities instead of noisy ones.
- Develop the habit of wearing earplugs when you know you will be exposed to noise for a long time.
- Earplugs quiet about 25 dB of sound and can mean the difference between a dangerous and a safe level of noise.
- Try not to use several noisy machines at the same time.
- Try to keep television sets, stereos and headsets low in volume.