Hearing Loss Explained
Why and how we hear:
Hearing loss is considered to be one of the most important healthcare issues. Unfortunately, nearly 170 million people worldwide are affected by this disease. When talking about hearing impairment, we mean an absolute or partial inability to hear sounds. The problems with ears tend to occur right after the birth. In fact, the hearing loss affects nearly 4 out of every 1000 newborns. However, the disease can develop and get worse at any age. Thus, we do want our clients to raise awareness of hearing impairment and its prevention.
As far as ear anatomy is concerned, this sensitive organ consists of the outer, middle and inner ears. The primary function of the outer part is to collect and send sounds to the ear canal. Then the eardrum in the middle ear is supposed to produce vibrations transferring them through small bones into the inner part of the organ. There is a cochlea that has a great number of tiny hair-like cells. Finally, these cells send the nerve signals to the brain. That is how a sound is born.
Types and symptoms
There are three basic types of hearing loss:
- Sensorineural. This kind of hearing impairment happens when there is a dysfunction of the inner ear or cochlea nerves. It is impossible to medically or surgically treat this loss. As a result, a person cannot hear sounds in the noisy surrounding (they are muffled).
Causes: hereditary/genetic illnesses, infections, drugs, aging, traumas, loud environment.
- Conductive. It occurs when there is a problem of sounds transmitting from outer and middle part to the inner ear. Usually, people correct conductive impairment by means of surgery or medication. The best solution to this loss is the usage of the hearing aids.
Causes: ear fluids, infections (meningitis), allergies, impact of the foreign body.
- Mixed (combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing impairment). In that case, there is a damage of any part of the organ of hearing. It usually leads to the severe and profound ear disorders. The treatment should be chosen depending on the nature of the loss.
Causes: aging, head injuries, ear malformation, genetic factors.
How hearing loss affects
The study made by Johns Hopkins Medicine, the leading health care center worldwide, revealed that there is a strong connection between hearing impairment and brain functioning. The main thing is that the hearing loss contributes to the brain atrophy. As a result, people with untreated hearing dysfunctions are likely to face decreased cognition and then dementia.
In fact, the professional audiologists compared brain structures of people with normal and impaired hearing. They came to a conclusion that certain brain parts of individuals with hearing losses tend to became smaller. This process leads to further shrinkage in the areas responsible for sound, speech, memory, and comprehension.
Dr. Frank Lin, the primary researcher, highlights the need for urgent treatment of hearing impairments. It is better not to ignore such health problems in order to prevent dangerous and fatal changes in brain structures. You can get a real benefit from the hearing aids that do help your brain process sounds and properly interpret them.
Untreated Hearing Impairment:
What Should You Expect From Untreated Hearing Loss
- Physical effects. Brain starts processing overtime trying to put the signals together. As a result, there may happen fatigue (lack of energy), disorientation (frequent falls), a prolonged period of illness, depression/stress, headache, hypertension, insomnia, tinnitus.
- Cognitive effects. Dysfunction of hearing causes brain atrophy. People often experience difficulty in processing speech and filtering of background noise. As a result, there are a loss of brain tissue and dementia (Alzheimer's disease).
- Social effects. It is all about the inability to find personal fulfillment. Hearing loss results in fear, incompetence, anger, stress, paranoia, and even isolation from a family. Moreover, the impairment is connected with the loss of independence and earning potential.
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