Hearing loss can occur for various reasons, which is why a proper screening and consultation about your hearing system is important.
The outer ear consists of the pinna and the ear canal.
The outer ear rarely causes a permanent hearing loss in most patients. A common cause of a hearing loss caused by the outer ear is when there is an occlusion of the ear canal. This can be caused by partial or complete blockage by a foreign object, infection, or cerumen (ear wax). Hearing losses from the outer ear can usually be resolved by removal of the blockage. Symptoms of a blocked ear may consist of: ear pain or pressure and a hearing loss. A proper screening of the hearing system is important.
The middle ear begins behind the ear drum and consists of an air-filled space that houses the 3 smallest bones in the human body.
The middle ear can cause a type of hearing loss termed "conductive". This means that there is an impedance in the hearing system that may not allow sound to reach the inner ear, and ultimately the brain. Symptoms of a middle ear problem may include: pain, pressure, otorrhea (drainage of the ear), and hearing loss. The hearing loss is often described by patients as sounding as if they are in a tunnel where their own voice is particularly loud compared to the surrounding environment. A hearing screening is recommended to determine what the next steps may be. Some middle ear problems require a special type of hearing aid to assist hearing environmental sounds again, including human speech.
The inner ear hearing system contains the cochlea. This is where sounds from the environment are organized and sent to the brain to be interpreted.
A type of inner ear hearing loss, termed "sensorineural", is one of the most common hearing losses that many humans will experience at some point in their lives. Presbycusis, or age-related hearing loss, falls under the sensorineural hearing loss umbrella. As we age, our inner ear hair cells tend to experience deterioration. These are not the same hair cells that are on your head. Rather, they are responsible for transferring mechanical sound to a neural impulse to send to the brain. The deterioration of these cells tends to cause a high frequency hearing loss configuration. Most patients that experience this type of hearing loss report difficulty understanding conversations, especially in background noise, Hearing aids are usually an excellent option for this type of hearing loss as they provide both amplification and a reduction in background noise, making it easier to hear in complex or noisy environments. A proper hearing screening is the first step towards finding the correct technology for your hearing loss.