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June 10, 2016 | Ear, Nose, Throat
As a child, you might have taken hearing for granted. For adults, the sense of hearing is often worth celebrating. Walt Whitman remarked that “Seeing, hearing, feeling, are miracles.” The 16 percent of American adults who indicate difficulty hearing—a number reported by the National Institute of Deafness and Other Communication Disorders—would probably agree with him.
Sounds enter your ear canal through your outer ear. The tympanic membrane separates your middle ear from the ear canal. In the middle ear are three small bones that help amplify sound and transfer it to your inner ear.
Once sound reaches the inner ear, the cochlea changes it into signals. Fluid movement in the cochlea responds to vibrations, setting 25,000 nerve endings in motion. They transform vibrations into electrical impulses. The auditory nerve transports these impulses to the brain, which creates your sense of hearing, Johns Hopkins Medicine summarizes.
Most people associate a decline in hearing with aging. However, the American Academy of Otolaryngology says one common reason for hearing loss in children is inflammation of the middle ear, or otitis media. Children with temporary hearing loss are often unable to understand specific words and speak louder than most consider normal. Sound is often muffled. Their average loss is equal to wearing an ear plug. Other causes of childhood loss include:
A mass of cells in the middle ear from chronic otitis media
Disease resulting from fixation of ear bones
The American Academy of Otolaryngology says one common reason for hearing loss in children is inflammation of the middle ear.
If you’re an adult, signs of hearing decay might be gradual. Everyday Health reports that for those at least 75, the chance of developing a hearing loss is 50 percent. According to Prevention.com, loss often occurs because people don’t take sufficient precautions to protect their ears.
The Hearing Loss Association of America cites these common signs of hearing loss:
Asking people to repeat what they said
Having trouble hearing when addressed from a different room
Thinking people are mumbling
Needing to turn up the TV or radio volume
Difficulty hearing higher-pitched sounds like children’s voices
Ringing or buzzing in one or both ears
Typical causes include ear wax buildup, trauma from items inserted into the ears, colds or sinus infections leading to ear infections, exposure to loud noise and aging.
You might have either of two main types of hearing loss. People with conductive hearing loss generally hear well in a noisy environment. They benefit when others speak loudly. Softer sounds aren’t loud enough. Amplifying sound or using medical or surgical intervention is often helpful.
Everyday Health reports that for those at least 75, the chance of developing a hearing loss is as high as 50 percent.
If you have sensorineural hearing loss, loudness and clarity are problems. You might speak loudly, have trouble understanding speech or be bothered by background nose. It could be hard to tolerate loud sounds. Amplifying sounds doesn’t help.
Infants’ hearing is tested at birth. Most schools test children’s hearing on a regular basis. Johns Hopkins Medicine advises having a baseline hearing test as an adult. Should it show hearing loss, you might need additional tests then and with future changes.
If you’re experiencing any ear discomfort, wax buildup or signs of hearing loss, it’s important to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist (ENT) for an evaluation. These highly trained physicians treat head and neck disorders such as hearing problems, sinus and ear infections, balance and dizziness issues and voice problems. Common treatment options include hearing aids, assistive listening devices, cochlear implant surgery, speech or lip reading and sign language.
Be sure to call Revere Health today to schedule an appointment. You’ll always receive excellent patient-centered specialty and general care.
The Live Better Team
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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.