To explain hearing loss we need to explain how we hear.
Hearing is the ability to detect sound. The outer ear, made up of the pinna and ear canal, “catch the sound” and direct it toward the tympanic membrane (eardrum). The sound vibrations pass through the middle ear; an air-filled space behind the eardrum, via the ossicles (bones of the middle ear). This vibration is passed on to the cochlear (inner ear) which stimulates the auditory nerve to the brain.
A hearing test assesses how loud a sound has to be before you can detect it
What is hearing loss? Well, if the intensity of a frequency of sound needs to be increased greater than 20-25 dB before someone can detect it, they have hearing loss. That is to say; if the volume of the pitch of sound has to be louder than normal for someone to hear it, they have hearing loss.
Hearing loss can be due to problems in the outer ear or middle ear known as conductive hearing loss or with the inner ear or nerve known as a sensorineural hearing loss.
Conductive Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss, due to middle ear infections are common in young children and usually improve with medical intervention or time. Some other causes of conductive hearing loss are;
Middle ear disease
Surgery is an option for some conductive hearing losses, however, some are permanent.
Sensorineural hearing loss
Some of the common causes of a sensorineural hearing loss are:
Generally, a sensorineural loss is permanent. Some sensorineural hearing losses, particularly age-related and industrial deafness, are gradual and can go unnoticed.
It is reported that one in six Australians has a hearing impairment. Because hearing loss affects communication ability, it can impact significantly on people’s quality of life. Although hearing aids don’t give you back normal hearing, they will improve your ability to communicate and therefore improve your quality of life.