Evaluating your hearing
The ear has three main parts that work together to help you hear — the outer, middle, and inner ear.
Outer: The outer ear catches sound waves and sends them down your ear canal to the eardrum, a flexible, circular membrane that vibrates when touched by sound.
Middle: Sound vibrations continue from the eardrum into the middle ear, where a bridge made of three tiny bones — the hammer, anvil, and stirrup — increases and amplifies the sound vibrations even more before transmitting them through the oval window.
Inner: The cochlea sits here looking like a snail shell, while in reality it houses a system of tubes filled with fluid and tiny hair cells. Sound waves passing through the oval window cause the fluid to move in the cochlea, setting the hair cells in motion. In turn, these cells transform the vibrations to electrical impulses that travel along the auditory nerve to the brain.
Most of the work done by your ears is mechanical in nature, catching and amplifying sound waves, then turning them into electrical impulses to be sent to the brain. The really complex task of hearing — understanding sounds — is done in the brain. That’s why our doctors of audiology evaluate the actual nerve that carries the information from the ear to the brain, so you can be given proper expectations of intervention. We won’t promise miracles. Our doctors will give you the facts!
Also known by its medical term, cerumen, ear wax is a lubricant and protective mechanism for your ears. It starts as a mixture of fatty secretions from the oil and sweat glands in the outer third of your ear canal. Jaw movement from chewing and talking helps migrate the wax down the canal and out of your ears. Sometimes dead skin cells and other small debris can combine with the secretions and cause the ear wax to harden.Never attempt to remove earwax with a cotton swab. The swab often shoves ear wax farther into the ear canal, which can cause a painful blockage and even hearing loss.
When a diagnostic hearing evaluation is done at Ken-Ton Hearing, the doctor of audiology will perform a thorough inspection of the ear canal for excess wax. If there is excess, the audiologist can remove it before continuing with the evaluation. Likewise, our doctors of audiology can remove excess wax to improve the function of a hearing aid.
Your primary care physician or an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor can also remove excess cerumen in their offices.
Your ears can have a really bad hair day — bad for your hearing, unfortunately.“Hair cells” is the term given to tiny pulsating nerve endings in the inner ear that translate sound energy into electrical signals that are sent to the brain for analyzing. These incredible, hard-working hair cells are not like the hair on your head. When you lose a hair cell in your inner ear, it is permanent. If enough hair cells are lost — usually due to noise, compromises to circulation like through diabetes or smoking, or general aging — it leads to the most common type of hearing loss we know.
For many, the good news is that this common type of hearing loss is also the kind that’s most easily and frequently helped. Hearing aids are an easy, effective solution no matter what has caused the loss of your hair cells.
Exciting laboratory studies have led researchers to discover a gene that prevents regeneration of hair cells. Hopefully, hair cell damage will no longer be permanent in the near future.
Did you know…? Both birds and frogs can regenerate their inner ear hair cells!
It’s no accident that you have two ears, one on each side of your head. Almost every creature is built this way to get the best hearing possible. In much the same way that having two eyes improves your vision, having two ears helps your hearing:
- You can hear speech in noise much better with two ears than with one
- Having a signal from each ear helps the brain naturally suppress unwanted or unnecessary noise
- You can more easily and accurately localize the direction of a sound such as a ringing phone, a bird call, or a car horn. Helps you turn your head to the right direction on a voice or an on-coming car
- Hearing with both ears gives the sound an added, natural boost in strength
Two ears, naturally. It’s the way you were born to hear!
The most common type of hearing loss occurs when hair cells die off in the inner ear, usually as a natural part of the aging process. However, some hearing loss can indeed by caused by other things, and can be corrected with surgery.
Your diagnostic hearing evaluation done by a doctor of audiology at Ken-Ton Hearing helps discover the origin of your hearing loss. If the origin of the loss appears to be in the bones of the middle ear, very often a surgical procedure called a stapedectomy can help improve your hearing.
If your hearing loss is of this origin, we will coordinate with your primary care physician for a referral to see an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physician, or otolaryngologist. Most ear surgeries are performed by otolaryngologists. Your primary care physician will also be notified.
As with any surgical procedure, the ear doctor will talk to you about potential risks and rewards. After surgery, a postoperative hearing evaluation back at our office will help verify improvement.
Noise induced hearing loss can result from a single loud noise such as a firecracker or gunshot. Hearing loss can also result from prolonged exposure to noise over a period of time. It occurs gradually and without pain. The best way to avoid noise-induced hearing loss is to take care of your hearing by protecting your ears from loud sounds.
Experts have established that we should not be exposed to 90 decibels (dB) of sound for longer than eight hours a day. For every 5 dB increase in volume, the maximum recommended exposure time is cut in half.
- Lawn Mower 90 dB
- Snowmobile 100 dB
- Car Horn 110 dB
- Stereo Headphones 105-110 dB
- Jackhammer 113 dB
- Rock Concert 115-120 dB
- Jet Taking Off 130 dB
- Firearms 125-170 dB
Here are some simple things you can do to help prevent noise-induced hearing loss:
- Wear ear plugs when you’re exposed to loud noise at work or play.
- Pay attention to the noises around you and when you can, turn down the volume on radios, TVs, and stereos when you can. Whenever possible, leave noisy environments.
- Alternate a noisy activity with a quiet one to give your ears a rest.
- Use quieter appliances when possible, such as a quieter blow dryer.
- Use the 60/40 rule for wearing headphones.
Communication is the key to all human activities. it is necessary for learning, exchanging information and generally taking care of each other. When someone you know has a hearing loss, communicating can be far more challenging than anyone would believe.
Hearing aids can improve your hearing, but even the most advanced hearing instruments today cannot restore it. A damaged hearing nerve not only impairs a person’s ability to hear sound, but also the entire system for interpreting what they hear.
Being fit by a doctor of audiology with good quality hearing aids is only one part of the solution. There are other techniques which relatives and friends can adopt in order to make conversation easier for those affected by hearing loss.
Get Their Attention
- Be sure you have your communication partner’s attention before you begin to speak with them. This will allow them to be more engaged in the conversation so they are able to be attentive and won’t miss the beginning of what was said.
- Face the person you are talking to. Don’t try to converse from a different room or with your back turned. Visual cues, like facial expressions and lip movements, do a lot to help listeners understand your words.
- Stand where your face is well lit.
- Try not to talk while chewing or smoking.
- If you talk while reading the newspaper, or lean your cheek on your hand while talking, this will also make lip-reading more difficult for others.
Speak at a Natural Pace
- You don’t need to shout. Speaking at a normal conversational level is fine in most instances. Just speak clearly.
- Try not to talk too fast. Speak naturally, but pronounce your words more clearly.
- If you are having problems being understood, try rephrasing your sentence. Some words are more easily heard or lip-read than others.
- When you are in a group, take turns talking and try not to interrupt each other.
Reduce Background Noise
- Turn off the television and close open windows to reduce noise from traffic.
- Move closer to your listener so your voice is louder than the background noise and they can more easily watch your face and lip-read.
- Alternatively, try to find a quieter atmosphere to speak in.
1. Hearing loss is rare.
Not true—more than 10% of the population has a hearing loss. When you’re wearing a hearing aid, you’re part of a BIG club.
2. Hearing loss only affects old people.
No—people of all ages can be born with or develop hearing loss. It happens to most of us to some degree in our lives.
3. If I can’t hear well, I’m going senile.
Absolutely not! Many things can cause hearing loss, but it has nothing at all to do with senility.
4. If I just turn up the volume and get people to talk louder, I’ll be fine!
False. You can actually damage your hearing further by trying to compensate in those ways.
5. My hearing will be fine soon.
Probably not. Some hearing loss can be temporary, but most is not. Have a doctor of audiology evaluate your hearing to determine the type of loss you may have and if medical intervention is recommended.
6. Nothing can help since hearing loss is caused by nerve damage.
False. “Nerve deafness” is an old term for one type of hearing loss, and it can often be successfully helped with the use of hearing aids.