Hearing and hearing loss
Your life, your world, your hearing.
Good hearing is so important in our everyday lives, yet most people with normal hearing don’t even think twice about what it means to be able to hear well. Chatting with friends, listening to the sounds of nature, enjoying music or hearing warning signals – they take it all for granted.
Our hearing plays an important role in how we relate to our surroundings. It facilitates the forming of relationships, and opens up a wealth of sensory experiences. It is also very complex and extremely sensitive.
So let’s give it the attention it deserves …
How hearing works:
The ear is an amazing and incredibly skilled organ that performs the wonderful and highly complex task of hearing. It can distinguish between 7,000 different pitches and enables the brain to locate sound sources.
The human ear consists of three parts – the outer, middle, and inner ear.
Outer ear: The outer ear picks up sound and transmits it to the eardrum via the ear canal
Middle ear: Sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate. The ossicles, called malleus, incus, and stapes, pass the vibration on to the inner ear.
Inner ear: The cochlea converts movements of the ossicles into electrical signals. The auditory nerve transmits the signals to the brain.
The following video demonstrates how hearing works:
Hearing loss generally develops slowly over many years; the effects become apparent only gradually. This makes it difficult for those affected to recognize that they are actually suffering from a hearing impairment. Relatives, friends or colleagues are often the first to realize that something is wrong.
However, there are clear signs that your hearing is not entirely as it should be. Perhaps you find it difficult to understand phone conversations clearly? Does your family complain about the volume when you are listening to the radio or television? Do you find it difficult to follow a conversation in a restaurant or when there is a lot of noise in the street around you? Do you often feel exhausted after family celebrations because listening is such an effort? Do you hear better when you are able to look at the person talking to you?
All these are typical signs of a hearing impairment. But don’t worry; hearing loss is not something simply to be endured. You can – and should – do something about it.
Many people find it hard to come to terms with the idea of wearing hearing aids. They put off the decision and only do something about it when the problems associated with poor hearing simply become too much for them.
Still, the earlier you do something about hearing loss, the better. Even when hearing is just starting to deteriorate, hearing aids help to maintain neural pathways in your brain responsible for hearing all the sounds around you. The longer you put off hearing aids, the harder it will be for you to get used to them when you do finally wear them, and more importantly, the more you’ll miss out in life.
Possible impacts of hearing loss:
- Decreased attention
- Diminished understanding of speech
- Trouble communicating with others
- Diminished memory
- Less willing to embrace the unknown
- Declining job performance
- Lack of acknowledgement by others
- Irritability, stress, depression
- Withdrawal from social life, isolation
Hearing impairments can occur in all parts of the ear; dysfunctions of the outer or middle ear can generally be treated with medication or surgery. However, a good 80 % of all hearing impairments are caused by dysfunctions of or damage to the inner ear. Today, modern hearing aids can compensate for most inner ear damage.
However, no two cases of hearing loss are the same. Most often people with a hearing impairment are unable to distinguish soft tones and high-pitched sounds and have difficulties hearing sounds such as whispers, children’s voices or birdsong.
This video helps to understand hearing loss:
Binaural hearing: two ears hear better than one
Nature gave us two ears for a reason: Binaural Hearing, or hearing with both ears, helps us localize sounds no matter where they come from. It also allows us to precisely focus on what we want to hear by letting us perceive certain sounds like speech louder and clearer while ignoring others. A few of the most important binaural processes include binaural redundancy, binaural squelch, and binaural directed listening.
When we hear a sound in both ears, it’s like hearing the same sound twice. This helps our brain create a better perceptual image of the sound. With hearing loss, this effect is significantly reduced. Wearing two hearing instruments helps to bring back the benefit of binaural redundancy.
In situations where there is both noise and speech, hearing with both ears helps our brain to give speech sounds preference to noise. This makes speech seem louder than it really is. With hearing loss, this effect is significantly reduced. Wearing two hearing instruments helps to bring back the benefit of binaural squelch.
Binaural directed listening
In noisy situations with many different sounds coming from different places, hearing with both ears helps our brain pick out the one single sound source we’re interested in and focus on it. With hearing loss, this effect is significantly reduced. Wearing two hearing instruments helps to bring back the benefit of binaural directed listening.
Take action now
It is only when hearing starts to deteriorate noticeably that we realize just how important good hearing is in our everyday lives. And how much we miss out when we no longer hear well. Why take action as soon as possible?
Hearing loss is a gradual process
Hearing loss is usually a gradual process that takes many years – so gradual that we don’t immediately recognize its negative effects in our lives.
Untreated hearing loss impacts our lives
Communication problems with family, friends, and colleagues can lead to irritability, stress, isolation, and even depression.
The sooner the better
The earlier we are properly fit with hearing aids, the better, even if you only have slight hearing loss.
Training your brain
When you hear well again with hearing aids, the brain is stimulated and mental vitality is maintained.
Get more out of life
Quality of life is enhanced, resulting in unrestricted interpersonal communication and social interaction.
Being able to hear well again has many positive effects. Studies show that the large majority of hearing aid wearers are very or extremely satisfied with their hearing aids. Experienced users report that their social contacts, as well as their physical and mental well-being, have improved markedly. They feel fitter and much more ready to take on new things.