Hearing is a complex process of picking up sound and assigning meaning to it. Our ability to hear is critical to understanding the world around us. The human ear responds to sounds that are very faint as well as sounds that are very loud. Even before birth, infants respond to sound.
The ear can be divided into three parts leading up to the brain – the outer ear, middle ear and the inner ear.
The outer ear consists of the ear canal and eardrum. Sound travels down the ear canal, reaching the eardrum which causes it to vibrate back and forth.
The middle ear is the space behind the eardrum which contains three small bones called ossicles (incus, malleus and stapes or hammer, anvil and stirrup). These bones are connected to the eardrum and to an opening to the inner ear. When the eardrum vibrates, it causes the three tiny bones in the middle ear to move back and forth which creates a wave of movement in the fluid of the inner ear.
The inner ear, or cochlea, contains a fluid filled space and tiny structures called hair cells. When the fluid of the inner ear moves, it causes the hair cells in the inner ear to bend back and forth. Different hair cells will be stimulated depending on the sound. The stimulation of the hair cells will send a signal along the auditory nerve to the brain, where the signal is interpreted.
Have you experienced any of the following?
If you answered YES to any of the above, it is time to schedule an evaluation.
Untreated hearing loss is associated with lower quality of life, depression, social isolation, unemployment and lower earnings at work, higher medical bills for other health issues, high blood pressure and even a higher risk of dangerous trips and falls.
Copyright 2018. Reprinted with permission from Healthy Hearing. Please visit our site for the original article: http://www.healthyhearing.com/help/hearing-loss
There are three main types of hearing loss:
Sensorineural hearing loss
Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. It is permanent and caused either by damage to tiny hair cells in the inner ear or to the auditory nerve. There are several reasons a person may have sensorineural hearing loss but can include noise exposure, the natural aging process or specific medications or chemotherapy.
Conductive hearing loss
Conductive hearing loss is caused by a problem in the outer or middle ear including ear wax buildup, ear infection, damage to the eardrum or damage to the three tiny bones in the middle ear. Some types of conductive hearing loss are permanent but many are treatable, including medical intervention.
Mixed hearing loss
Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.
While conductive hearing losses can often be medically treated, sensorineural hearing loss is usually permanent and the most common treatment is properly fitted hearing aids.
After diagnosing hearing loss, the audiologist will review the hearing test results with the patient and make recommendations for a unique treatment plan. We work with several different hearing aid manufacturers including Widex, Oticon, Resound, Phonak and Starkey, as well as companies that specialize in assistive listening device technology, such as Caption Call, Williams Sound and Oaktree. We work with all levels of technology and styles of hearing aids; completely-in-the-canal, in-the-ear, behind-the-ear and rechargeable options. A patient’s level of hearing loss, lifestyle, (are they in a lot of background noise environments or not), dexterity and budget are all taken into consideration. Assistive listening technology include amplified telephones, amplified doorbells and alarms, as well as wireless devices that can connect to televisions and telephones (landline or cellular). No two patients are the same when it comes to their hearing loss and the places and situations where they need to hear better, so it is our job to make sure we offer different options. That being said, we are dedicated to finding the best option for each of our patients!
Why treat hearing loss?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hearing loss is the third most common chronic health condition facing adults today. Untreated hearing loss has been linked to a number of health problems, including cognitive decline, anxiety, depression, and increased risk of trips and falls. People with hearing loss often have difficulty following day-to-day conversations and may withdraw from activities and other things they enjoy.
A study by the Better Hearing Institute found households with an employed individual who has untreated hearing loss make up to $12,000 less annually. Along with this fact, untreated hearing loss can even mean higher out of pocket medical costs for unrelated health problems.
The good news is when you work with the right provider, there are effective hearing loss treatments available today.
Sensorineural hearing loss is usually permanent and the most commonly used treatment is hearing aids. When a patient is properly tested, fit and followed by an audiologist, hearing aids are highly effective. For this reason, the individual you work with makes a significant difference in your success with treatment.
Conductive hearing loss treatment options usually involve medical intervention to address the specific cause. In the event medical treatment does not clear up the conductive hearing loss, our audiologist can investigate other options, including the use of hearing aids. Our practice works closely with primary care physicians to make sure the correct path of intervention is followed and to keep everyone in the loop.
According to the U.S Centers for Disease Control, an estimate 50 million Americans suffer from ringing in the ears, or tinnitus.. Almost one-third of tinnitus sufferers have what is considered debilitating tinnitus, requiring them to seek professional diagnosis and treatment for relief. Dr. Gillespie specializes in tinnitus diagnosis/management and is a member of the Tinnitus Practitioner’s Association.
There is currently no cure for tinnitus but there are several options to help patients manage their tinnitus. This includes a diagnostic hearing evaluation, educating patients to better understand causes for their tinnitus and the use of sound therapy devices, including hearing aids.
There are specific tests that can be performed by our audiologist to evaluate and diagnose a patient’s tinnitus. These include tinnitus pitch matching, loudness matching and finding a minimum masking level. Utilizing the results, our audiologist can determine a specific treatment, which may include sound therapy, for each individual patient experiencing tinnitus discomfort. Certain hearing aid models include programming for sound therapy that audiologists can use to help blend or “mask” the specific sound each patient perceives, which can help individuals gain significant relief from their tinnitus. Dr. Gillespie has previously received specialized training in tinnitus evaluation and management from the Tinnitus Practitioner’s Association.
While there’s no cure for tinnitus, there are many treatments that can give patients significant relief. Certain devices can be worn that produce soothing therapeutic sounds designed to retrain the brain to ignore the tinnitus. Other devices produce constant, soft noise to mask the tinnitus. Tinnitus sufferers who also have hearing loss often find relief from wearing properly fitted hearing aids or combination devices, (hearing aids combined with sound therapy or masking sound).
Other tinnitus relief strategies include relaxation exercises, meditation and visualization, tinnitus retraining therapy, (TRT) and cognitive behavioral therapy.
The first step in treatment is a proper diagnostic hearing evaluation and consult with a professional who has experience helping patients with tinnitus.
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