A Guide to Hearing and Hearing Loss

How do we hear?

Sound waves travel through the air and into the ear canal where they are funnelled down to the eardrum. The eardrum is a tightly stretched membrane which vibrates as the sound waves hit and passes the vibrations on to the bones in the middle ears – the hammer, anvil and stirrup (known as the osscicles)

The stirrup then passes the vibrations on to the inner ear, which is a coiled tube known as the cochlea. The cochlea contains thousands of tiny hair-like cells called cilia which change the vibrations into electrical signals which are passed to the brain via the auditory (hearing) nerve.

The brain interprets these electrical signals and tells you what the noise is you are hearing.

Why is our hearing so important?

Our ability to hear defines who we are and how we communicate. Our sense of hearing has the power to inform, entertain and connect us with family and friends. It also helps us learn, stay safe and lead full & productive lives.

Problems with hearing can affect our general wellbeing, causing dizziness, tiredness, stress, headaches and a feeling of isolation. Every aspect of our daily lives is enhanced by our ability to hear what goes on and interact with those around us.

What is hearing loss?

As we get older, many of us will begin to experience hearing loss, which is a natural part of the ageing process. Hearing loss develops gradually over time and in our 20′s we have already lost the ability to hear some of the sounds infants can hear. By the time we reach our 30′s and 40′s, our hearing will start to develop subtle losses and once we reach our 80′s, more than half of us will suffer from significant hearing loss.

As we continue to live longer and more of us are exposed to loud noises from modern lifestyles, hearing impairment is increasingly common at an earlier age. Even a slight hearing loss can have a negative impact on our ability to work, socialise and enjoy life.

What are the common signs of hearing loss?

There are many signs that you, or a loved one, may be developing hearing loss. Here are some of the more common ones:

  • Having trouble hearing in busy or noisy places
  • Frequently having to ask people to speak up or repeat themselves
  • Finding that people are mumbling
  • Misunderstanding conversations
  • Increasing the volume on the television
  • Avoiding social situations altogether

If any of these sound familiar, it’s a good idea to make an appointment for a free hearing test at your local Freedom Clinic.