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About Hearing

Your ear is an amazing organ that, simply put, turns sound waves in the air into information in your brain. It can perceive sounds ranging from barely audible to very loud, differentiate their loudness and distance, and pinpoint the direction of a sound source to an amazing degree of accuracy. Normal hearing occurs when sound enters the external ear, travels through the ear canal and reaches the eardrum. The eardrum vibrates in response to the sound and this causes vibration in a chain made up of three tiny bones in the middle ear. The vibration is then transferred to the inner ear or cochlea, which consists of nerve fibres (hair cells) that receive sound. Different hair cells are responsible for receiving different pitches of sound. From here, the signal is transferred via the auditory nerve to the auditory cortex of the brain where the signal’s message is understood.


What causes a Hearing Loss?

A hearing loss is caused by an obstruction or damage to any part of the hearing pathway, beginning from the entry into the canal, right through to the auditory cortex in the brain.


Some common causes:

  • Presbycusis – age-related hearing loss
  • Impacted cerumen (wax) and foreign bodies
  • Eardrum perforation
  • Otosclerosis (calcification of the middle ear bones)
  • Acoustic trauma – noise-induced hearing loss
  • Infections – HIV, Syphilis, Rubella, Chickenpox
  • Ototoxicity – Exposure to certain medications or chemicals
  • Meniere’s Disease
  • Auditory Nerve Disorders – Tumours, Brain Stem Disorders, Diabetes Complications, Strokes,
  • AIDS-related opportunistic infections.


How do I know if I have a Hearing Loss / When should I go for a Hearing Test?

  • Put the TV or radio louder than usual
  • Find it difficult to hear in noisy environments than in quiet surroundings
  • Used to work in a noisy environment
  • Find that your family and friends are complaining that you do not hear them when they speak to you
  • Find that most people mumble
  • Struggle to hear on the telephone
  • Have to ask for repetition more often than other people
  • Have trouble with hearing speech clearly when someone speaks from another room or facing away from you
  • Begin to feel that it is too much effort to take part in certain conversations, and you withdraw or ‘switch off’ in company
  • You have any other symptoms in the ear, such as ringing, pain or dizziness

These are common signs that you may have a problem in the hearing pathway. Early identification and diagnosis may help to prevent more of a problem later on.


Why should I seek help for my (possible) Hearing Loss?

Hearing is one of only 5 senses that bring in information about the outside world to the brain. Your thinking patterns and knowledge about the world around you is highly reliant on what you see and what you hear. Long term hearing loss can have an effect on the way your brain understands your world.

Hearing connects us to other human beings and our ability to communicate allows us to have relationships with others. Relationships are the essence of most people’s quality of life.
Finding and treating a hearing loss closer to its onset is important because, once the cause has been diagnosed, it is often possible to prevent it from worsening further.

Also, early treatment of a hearing loss leads to more positive results. Hearing with less effort leads to less fatigue, less stress and better relationships.

Hearing loss that remains untreated may worsen at a faster rate than hearing loss that has been properly diagnosed and rehabilitated. Worsening of a hearing loss occurs due to the lack of stimulation to certain parts of the nerve in the cochlea.

Some hearing losses are medically or surgically treatable and if left, may become permanent.