Harmony Hearing Center

Outer Ear: This is officially called your Pinna, it is shaped to help resonate the frequencies used for speech.

Auditory canal: Known as your ear canal, it moves sound from the outside through to your eardrum.
Eardrum: This vibrates when you hear sound, sending the waves to the ossicles.
Ossicles: These are three little bones—known informally as the hammer, the anvil, and stirrup—that transfer sound to the cochlea. They’re the smallest bones in the human body, but damaging them can cause severe hearing loss.
Cochlea: A fluid-filled, spiral-like membrane that transforms sound waves to signals that get passed on to the brain.
Vestibulocochlear nerve: The nerve that sends sound waves to the brain, it has two parts: the vestibular nerve (relates to balance and your equilibrium) and the cochlear nerve (relates to hearing).

Now that we know those, let’s dig into what happens when they are affected. There are two main forms of hearing loss:

Conductive Hearing Loss
This occurs when you have issues with the outer ear and middle ear, which include the ear canal, eardrum, and ossicles. It’s the less common form of hearing loss, and even though it can develop into a permanent issue, it is more easily treatable than the other.

Conductive Hearing Loss effects the ear canal, eardrum, and ossicles.

A Comprehensive Guide to Hearing Loss
Hearing loss is one of the biggest public health issues facing the elderly. About 25 percent of those between 65 and 74 suffer from some form of hearing loss, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Hearing Disorders. That number increases to about 50 percent for those over 75.

Loss of hearing—even at mild levels—can affect your daily life and put you at risk for a slew of health concerns, especially for someone living alone. But before we get into how hearing loss affects your daily life, let’s figure out how exactly hearing loss occurs.

Millions of people are born with hearing problems, but many more also develop hearing loss as they age.

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Sensorineural Hearing Loss
This is the most common type of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss means that something is wrong with the nerve-related parts of your ear, like the cochlea and vestibulocochlear nerve, which send sound waves to the brain.

       Sensorineural Hearing Loss
This is the most common type of hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss means that something is wrong with the nerve-related parts of your ear, like the cochlea and vestibulocochlear nerve, which send sound waves to the brain.

How Hearing Loss Occurs
Hearing loss is a broad term to cover any form of a disabling hearing issue that affects how well you can hear things. This can mean that there is a structural issue within your ear that causes your hearing to be affected, or maybe there are issues deep inside your ear connected to the Cochlear nerves. Millions of people are born with hearing problems, but many more also develop hearing loss as they age.

Hearing loss can occur at many levels, from very mild to severe to not being able to hear anymore; which is known as deafness.

No matter the form of hearing loss you’re living with, there are some important parts of the ear you need to know. We’ll work from the outer ear inward.

These parts of the ear include:

Mixed Hearing Loss

There is also a form of hearing loss called mixed hearing loss. This occurs when there are components of conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss causing the hearing issues. While treatment for conductive and sensorineural are different, audiologists recommend that you get the conductive hearing loss treated first before dealing with the sensorineural, if you have issues with both.

Rapid Loss
The National Institute on Aging points out that there is another form known as rapid hearing loss, that seniors need to be on the lookout for. When this occurs, seniors can lose hearing all at once or over the course of a couple days. It needs to be treated immediately.

Hearing loss can be onset in a multitude of ways, and how it onsets can determine what form of hearing loss you have and how it is treated. One of the primary ways you can develop hearing loss is simply by aging. It is known formally as presbycusis, but from now on we’ll refer to it as age-related hearing loss.

This condition usually affects both ears equally, gradually decreasing the usage of your ears so slowly that you may not realize it has onset until it’s progressed to a detrimental point. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) says that age-related hearing loss occurs simply because all the parts of our ear change as we age, making them less effective. (This is kind of similar to how the eyes and other organs may gradually not work as efficiently as they once did.)

How You Can Live Better when You Have Hearing Loss
The first step in coping with hearing loss is acknowledging its reality; denying the actuality will only lead to frustration and a lack in your quality of life. Be honest with your feelings and those around you; being honest with your loved ones helps build up your needed support system.

Be honest with those around you regarding your condition. Friends, family, co-workers…you don’t need them thinking you’re ignoring them or not answering them. Tell them up front and ask them to help you hear by speaking clearly, looking at you when then speak, and reduce background noise when possible.

Find and stick with a Hearing Care Professional. Staying with the same hearing care professional helps you maintain a consistent record of your hearing and whether the loss is gradual or rapid, and what might be factoring into it. Seek treatment, immediately! There are so many ways and options to treat hearing loss, depending on the severity of your loss and depending on when you seek treatment. Studies show that Americans take 7—10 years from when they first start to notice difficulties to actually seeking help.

This isn’t the only way seniors suffer from hearing loss, though. There are many reasons why hearing issues may develop in an older age, including:

Causes of Hearing Loss

Exposure to Noise
Overexposure to noise can cause hearing loss. Typically, consistent noise above 85 dB is what really does the damage. The noise damages the hair-like cells that exist in the ear and causes a gradual loss of hearing.

Hearing issues may just run in your family.

Suffering trauma to the head, especially the skull, can disturb the way your vestibulocochlear nerve transmits information to the brain. It can also damage your ossicles or eardrums, which are part of the sound-transmitting process.

Build-Up of Fluid
The build-up can occur on the outer portion (wax, skin) or middle part (fluid via disease) of your ear that can affect how sound moves through the ear.

Pressure to various parts of your ear, typically from dropping to lower attitudes (like divers consistently existing in high-pressure environments underwater), can permanently damage your ear.

Consuming large amounts of Vicodin, aspirin, chemotherapy drugs, and other medications can damage the hair-like cells in your inner ear.

Autoimmune issues, diabetes, and leukemia can damage your ear from within. There’s also an ear disease called Meniere’s disease that affects one ear at a time that causes vertigo, ringing, and pressure.

When infections occur in the ear (like ones that occur from a buildup of fluid) or throughout the body (like herpes, mumps, measles, the flu, and more), your hearing can be permanently damaged.

Signs And Symptoms Of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss reveals itself in many forms. In fact, they can creep up so slowly that you may not even notice you have hearing loss until it starts to take a significant toll on you.

Signs: Signs of hearing loss include:

Difficulty hearing conversation, both in person and over the phone
Needing to turn the volume up on the television to extremely loud levels
Difficulty hearing softer-speaking people
Needing people to speak louder and slower to help you process the information
Trouble hearing consonants (according to the Mayo Clinic)
Tendency to think people are mumbling
Exiting conversations because it’s hard to keep up

Symptoms: The symptoms of hearing loss manifest themselves in more physical, potentially painful, ways. These symptoms can often coincide with illnesses like the common cold and other infections, and they include:

A constant ringing sound in one or both ears
A pain in and around the ear
A buildup of fluid, sort of feeling like there’s water in your ear

These symptoms may point to different forms of hearing loss. For instance, leaking fluid may indicate conductive hearing loss as there could be a buildup of fluid within the canal. On the other hand, a constant pain or ringing can mean that there’s an infection deep inside the ear.
How Hearing Loss Can Affect Your Daily Life
Hearing loss can begin to really affect your daily life when it develops into disabling hearing loss. This occurs in adults when they incur a loss of hearing 40 decibels (dB), a unit of sound, in their best ear.

For instance, a normal conversation occurs at about 60 dB, according to the NIDCD. Someone with disabling hearing loss needs more than 100 dB—about the loudness of max volume on a music player—to hear this conversation without any aid. The different levels of hearing loss are categorized as follows:

Mild hearing loss: Loss of 21 to 40 dBs, difficulty hearing sounds like a human breathing
Disabling hearing loss: Loss of 40 to 55 dBs, difficulty hearing in-person conversations
Moderately severe hearing loss: Loss of 56 to 70 dBs, difficulty hearing televisions at moderate volume
Severe hearing loss: Loss of 71 to 90 dBs, difficulty hearing loud traffic
Profound hearing loss: Loss of more the 90 dBs, it’s difficult to hear loud engines and orchestras (in a pit) at this point

Not being able to hear or having difficulty hearing normal sounds like the door opening, a simple conversation, or the television on a normal volume can really start to affect how elderly people experience their daily lives.

Social Aspects
Having difficulty hearing can cause issues in your social life. To put it simply, it’s hard to interact with people on a fluid basis when you can’t understand what they’re saying. This can force seniors into reducing how much they interact with their friends and family.

Isolation can cause a slew of health issues for elderly people, including an increased rate or mortality, the advancement of cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s, and depression, which has its own list of health problems, too. Once they’re isolated inside, it becomes difficult to hear a lot of practical goings-on in your living space, too.

Practical Aspects
Hearing loss can make it difficult to hear simple, practical things like someone knocking on the door, the door opening, the phone ringing, the television at a moderate volume, and a busy street. Most importantly, hearing loss can prevent you from hearing other people.

In all of these instances, someone’s life can be put in danger. Let’s say there’s an intruder that enters your home, and you need to notify authorities. Hearing loss could make it difficult for you to know that they’re even there until you see them.

Also, when you’re out and about on the town, hearing loss could put you in danger when you’re crossing the street, as you may not know a car is coming around the corner until the driver blares the horn. It may also increase the rate at which you fall because you’re not quite as aware of the sonics of your surroundings.

Economic Aspects
Hearing loss can make working incredibly difficult. Let’s say you have a job as a receptionist or telemarketer in your older years as a way to keep a steady income. Not being able to hear and understand the conversations you have on the phone can put you out of work.

The World Health Organization predicts that hearing loss’s economic impact is higher than $750 billion, between the amount of money that gets poured into treating it and the money lost by people with hearing loss not being able to work to their full potential.