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Hearing Loss 101: Conditions, Common Terms, and Types of Treatment

After all the advances in modern science, it may seem incredible that there is no “magic pill” to correct hearing loss. Patients can either struggle with symptoms or buy a hearing aid to correct the condition—and for many people, the options are equally unpalatable. So why do hearing aids remain the most common form of treatment? Isn’t there another way to restore hearing that doesn’t rely on a device?

Ear Anatony

Function of the Normal Ear

In order to fully understand hearing loss, it is vital to understand how the ear normally works. The ear is divided into three parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear consists of the external pinna (the cartilage and lobes that we normally think of as the ear) as well the ear canal. The external ear acts as a funnel to bring sounds toward the person’s brain.

The middle ear chamber contains the eardrum and the three tiny bones called ossicles. The eardrum passes the sounds from the outer ear to the ossicles, which amplify and convert the sounds to vibrations before passing them on to the inner ear.

In the inner ear, the vibrations move into the cochlea, a snail-shaped organ that contains tiny hair cells suspended in fluid. Here, the vibrations are converted to nerve impulses, a language that the brain can understand. These messages are sent to the brain, which interprets the noises you hear as sound.

Types of Hearing Loss

There are two main types of hearing loss: sensorineural and conductive. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form of the condition, and is caused by a disturbance in the function of the inner ear. Patients with this type of hearing loss have often suffered damage to the cochlea or auditory nerve through noise exposure, sudden trauma, repeated ear infections, or degeneration caused by aging. Degrees of sensorineural hearing loss range from mild to severe, and can potentially result in total deafness.

Conductive hearing loss is less common, and is caused by obstructions in the middle or outer ear. Patients may perceive sounds as quiet or muffled as tumors, earwax, and other blockages prevent sound waves from reaching the eardrum. In some cases, hearing loss may be caused by a perforation in the eardrum or damage to one or more of the ossicles. If there is a problem with both the middle and inner ear, a patient is said to be suffering from mixed hearing loss, or a combination of conductive and sensorineural impairment.

Hearing Loss Treatment

Since the treatment for your condition depends on the type and degree of your hearing loss, the first step in treatment should be a comprehensive hearing screening. At Medical Hearing Systems, we begin by performing a full audiometric evaluation using our REAL EAR computer, testing your ears’ ability to understand speech, conduct sound, and respond to noises of varying loudness and pitch. We will look inside your ears to see if an obstruction (such as earwax buildup) is causing your condition, and discuss whether surgery or hearing aids may be necessary to correct your type of hearing loss.

While there may not be a pill that corrects hearing loss, medical technology has advanced the most popular form of treatment: the hearing aid. Today’s devices are smaller and more versatile than earlier models, and even offer wireless connectivity with TVs, cellphones, and other electronic devices.

Hearing aids are incredibly effective at treating sensorineural hearing loss. The microphone in the device amplifies sounds, allowing the cochlea to receive and process the noises around you once more. Our specialists will recommend one or two devices that will give you the best hearing quality for your condition, and perform our hearing tests once more while you are wearing your chosen device so that you can easily see the difference your hearing aid makes.

At your hearing testing appointment, you will also be given a 30-day trial period for your new device, as well as follow up appointments for device cleaning services and an annual hearing test. Call us today at 866-517-4415 to schedule your checkup at one of our many Florida locations!