There are no two ears that are physically the same, not even our own. One ear lobe might be longer than the other. The right ear canal may be narrower than the left. It always seems like one ear gets more wax than the other.
It also holds true that no two hearing losses are the same. Just like your prescription lenses for your eye glasses or contacts are different, so will the corrective prescription in your hearing instruments. Your hearing evaluation report (audiogram) may look similar but specifically each individual ear will have different needs to stimulate the brain properly. Proper testing and verification reveals to the Hearing Health Care Provider what is needed to deliver the best possible hearing, noise control, and speech understanding to the patient.
There are three main parts to the ear: the outer ear, middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear contains the pinna and the bowl of your ear, the ear canal that we can look into and also the place that produces ear wax. When we look down the ear canal, we can see the eardrum. The ear drum, or tympanic membrane, is the dividing line between the outer and middle ear. If the eardrum is healthy and clear, we can actually see the little bones on the other side of the eardrum. The light we are looking in the ear canal with will shine back with a cone of light off of the pearl essence eardrum.
The little bones in the middle ear are called the “ossicular chain.” They are the smallest bones in our bodies. That is the only thing that is in our middle ear.
The eustachian tube opening is at the middle ear cavity. The eustachian tube helps to balance and regulate air pressure on the middle ear side of the ear drum with the external air pressure on the outer ear side of the eardrum. As the eardrum vibrates back and forth from sound pressure, the bones (ossicles) pump back and forth (much like a hammer in your hand or even like a piston). The pressure is transferred by the bones into an opening into the inner ear. The inner ear houses thousands of little hair cells that are stimulated by the continuation of sound pressure and send the information to the main auditory nerve and then to the brain. All parts must work properly to have “normal hearing.”
A hearing problem can happen in any part of the ear. If the problem occurs in your outer or middle ear — such as fluid accumulation, a hole in the eardrum or broken ossicles — then there may be a conductive type hearing loss. This type of problem may be correctable by medication or surgery.
There are many things that cause a conductive type hearing loss. Most hearing loss occurs with the nerves in the inner ear. It is estimated that at least 80% of all hearing loss is in fact a sensorineural hearing loss. Damage or dysfunction of the hearing hair cells in the inner ear causes this type of loss.
Hearing loss diminishes your quality of life. It also diminishes your loved one’s quality of life. People with untreated hearing loss suffer from stress, irritability and depression. They will eventually withdraw from social activities due to noise and difficulty understanding in group environments. Studies show that poor hearing causes a decline in job performance. People with untreated hearing problems do not move up the ladder to success as those with normal hearing. You can’t remember what you never heard so, of course, your memory is diminished. It has been found that an untreated hearing loss causes an individual to be less adventurous, less likely to experience or embrace the unknown.
Why? Why suffer? If you have a hearing problem, or if your loved one has a hearing loss, it is an awful way to live the only life that you were blessed with. Embrace your gifts. Be proactive with your hearing health. Enjoy your life and each other to the fullest. May is Better Hearing & Speech Month; take the first step and call your hearing health care provider today and schedule your complete hearing evaluation and consultation. To Hear Better Is To Live Better!
Roseann B. Kiefer, B.A., BC-HIS, is owner of Lampe and Kiefer Hearing Aid Center, Sebring. This information is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure your condition. Always talk to your doctor before following any medical advice or starting a diet or exercise program.