Life is enriched by the experiences we have through our five senses: sight, touch, smell, taste, and hearing.
Together, our senses enable us to learn and enjoy life. Hearing is especially vital; it enables us to communicate our wants, needs, and emotions.
You can’t reverse hearing loss or eliminate all Sound Voids™. However, your audiologist can apply the appropriate care and technology to lessen their effects and improve the quality of sounds you hear. Unfortunately, many people suffering from a hearing loss are either unaware or ashamed of their condition, and therefore, do not utilize the advanced hearing aid technology that is available.
The Effects of Hearing Loss
The loudness of sound is measured in decibels. Pitch is measured in sound vibrations per second. A deep voice has a low pitch, whereas, a child’s voice has a high pitch.
A Sound Void is a moment lacking clarity or understanding in speech. Sound Voids usually occur in specific listening situations where an individual’s hearing loss does not allow them to detect or understand important sounds and speech cues. Individuals often find that Sound Voids result in tiring, frustrating, and embarrassing situations. The perception of Sound Voids interfere in conversations with family and friends, decrease enjoyment of social situations, increase stress in the workplace or in volunteer efforts, and cause frustration during important conversations.
The 3 Types of Hearing Loss
- Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SHL): SHL is typically the result of damage to the delicate hair cells in the inner-ear organ (the cochlea) that are responsible for picking up sounds. When these hair cells — or the nerves they connect to — are damaged or destroyed by repeated exposure to loud noise, hearing becomes more difficult. Because hearing damage usually affects the highest frequencies first, loud-noise exposure can result in permanent high-frequency hearing loss.
- Conductive Hearing Loss: This type of hearing loss is typically the result of an infection or blockage in the outer or middle ear. Otitis media (middle-ear infections) can sometimes cause difficulty hearing due to a fluid buildup. Swimmer’s ear or a buildup of earwax may create a blockage outside the eardrum. This type of hearing loss is typically reversible once the infection or blockage clears, or once necessary surgery is performed.
- Mixed Hearing Loss: Individuals with mixed hearing loss typically suffer from some combination of SHL and a semipermanent conductive hearing loss, such as a malfunction of one of the ossicles (tiny bones that conduct sound) in the middle ear. Hearing may improve after the conductive portion of the hearing loss is resolved through treatment or surgery. SHL is usually permanent.
How Much Does Your Hearing Loss Affect You?
High-pitch Hearing Loss
In the first stages of hearing loss, the high pitches are usually lost first. Therefore, difficulty hearing or understanding high-pitched voices of women and children is one of the first symptoms. It is important to recognize that hearing someone and understanding them are two different things. High-pitch hearing loss distorts sound, which makes speech difficult to understand even if it can be heard.
People with hearing loss often have difficulty differentiating words that sound alike, especially words that contain S, F, SH, CH, H, TH, T, K or soft C sounds. These consonants are in a much higher pitch range than vowels and other consonants.
Degree of Hearing Loss
There are five levels or degrees of hearing loss. A person with normal hearing can perceive very soft sounds, whereas a person with a profound loss can only perceive sounds louder than 90 dB.
Avoiding loud noise may help prevent premature hearing loss and the perception of Sound Voids™. There are easy ways to identify if a particular sound is potentially harmful.
- Do you have difficulty talking or hearing others talk over the sound?
- Does the sound make your ears hurt?
- Do your ears ring after hearing the sound?
- Do other sounds seem muffled after exposure?
If you answered “yes” to any of the above questions, the noise may be damaging your hearing. Most people don’t realize how loud everyday sounds actually are. Sounds above 85 dB are harmful depending on how long and how often you are exposed to them. The louder a sound is, the lower the amount of exposure is required to cause damage. If used properly, hearing protection devices can reduce the loudness of sound reaching the ears.
A basic audiological evaluation is performed in a quiet area (preferably a Sound Booth) with an audiometer, a device that produces various pitch sounds (frequencies) at different levels (intensities). The person responds to the sounds by either raising his/her hand or pushing a button. Results are then charted on an audiogram, which gives the audiologist an indication of whether hearing is within normal limits or if a problem may exist. If a hearing loss is detected, more evaluations can be performed to better define the nature and extent and possible cause of the hearing loss. Learn more about audiological evaluations by contacting our office.