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The ear

Types of hearing loss

Signs of hearing loss

Who is affected?

Treatments

The ear

Your ear is an organ that converts sound waves propagating in the air into information to your brain
Outer Ear

The visible part of the ear, made up of the auricle and the ear canal up to the tympanic membrane.
Sound waves, propagating in the air, are gathered and directed through the ear canal towards the eardrum.

Middle Ear

It's a space full of air separated from the outer ear by the eardrum. The ossicles: malleus, incus and stapes, form a bridge from the eardrum to the inner ear, amplifying and conducting the sound up to the inner ear through the oval window.

Inner Ear

The inner ear has the shape of a snail shell and is made up of several membranous sections full of liquid. When the ossicles conduct sound to the oval window the liquid moves stimulating the ear's nerve cells in the interior of the cochlea. These cells send electrical impulses through the nerves to the brain, where they are interpreted as sound.

Types of hearing loss

In general, there are three types of hearing loss: conductive, sensorineural and mixed.
Sensorineural Loss

Originates in the inner ear, in the organ of Corti and/or the auditory nerve. Sometimes called perception or neural deafness. Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the inner ear's nerves are damaged and can't properly transmit signals to the brain. With this type of hearing loss sounds aren't clear. As the inner ear's nerves and sensorial cells naturally decline over time, this is the most common type of age-related hearing loss. Exposure to loud noises, diabetes, ototoxic drugs and heredity are also possible causes. Sensorineural hearing loss is often successfully treated with hearing aids.

Conductive Loss

Results of alterations in the middle ear. The sounds are blocked from reaching the inner ear, arriving weakly and/or distorted. The most common causes for conductive hearing loss are obstructions in the canal that can be removed through medical or surgical procedures. People with conductive hearing loss usually make a full recovery.

Mixed Loss

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural loss, and presents both inner and outer ear wounds and alterations.

Signs of hearing loss

It is estimated that one in ten people suffer of some type of hearing loss.
Most common symptoms
  • Difficulty understanding conversations;
  • Loss of confidence;
  • Avoiding social occasions or family reunions;
  • Asking people to repeat what they said.;
  • Difficulties listening to the radio, television or telephone;
  • Difficulties locating sound sources - in front, behind, left or right;
  • Focusing on the lips movements of the interlocutor in a conversation.
4 levels of hearing loss:

Mild hearing loss (21-40 dB HL threshold)

  • You may have hearing problems related to low tone voices or noisy environments. Development of language is normal, small articulatory difficulties might arise as the loss increases.

Moderate hearing loss (41-70 dB HL threshold)

  • You may have some difficulties hearing normal voice. The language and phonetic emission start to be affected and decreases with time. Moderate hearing loss hampers understanding, specially in noisy environments. There is a strong propensity to raise the TV and radio volumes.

Severe hearing loss (71-90 dB HL threshold)

  • With a serious hearing loss, normal conversations are not understood, in this case, only when there is an amplified speech, yelling or increasing the volume the conversation is understood.

Profound hearing loss (91 dB HL or superior threshold)

  • In a deep hearing loss, there is no understanding of sound. Language does not develop if there is no special and qualified attention to aid you child in his cognitive development.

Who is affected?

Although hearing loss is more common on older people, hearing loss can occur at any age and for many reasons.

  • 17 in 1000 people under 18 years old have hearing loss
  • 30% > 65 years old
  • 40-50% > 75 years old
  • 90% > 80 years old
  • IT DOES NOT ONLY AFFECT OLD PEOPLE: 65% of people with hearing loss are between the ages of 18 and 44!

Treatments

  • Hearing rehabilitation process, including hearing aid adaptation
  • Medication
  • Surgical