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About Hearing


Hearing begins when the outer ear, the visible portion of the ear that is on the outside of the head, channels sound waves down the auditory canal. This tube like passageway is lined with tiny hairs and small glands that produce ear wax.

The middle ear lies at the end of the auditory canal. It is composed of the ear drum and three small bones known by the layman as the hammer, the anvil and the stirrup. When sound waves hit the ear drum, it vibrates and, in turn, moves the hammer. The hammer moves the anvil, which moves the stirrup which moves the vibrations into the inner ear.

The inner ear consists of the cochlea and the nerve of hearing. It converts sound waves into nerve impulses that travel to the brain via the movement of tiny hair cells. The brain, in turn, allows us to hear…as long as the message it is receiving is not distorted due to problems in the process just described.

  Recognizing the Signs of Hearing Loss  
If you think someone you know might have a hearing loss, take a look at this list of common signs. Do any of the following sound familiar?


  • They appear to hear people talk but have difficulty understanding some of the words
  • They’re constantly asking people to repeat themselves
  • They have a hard time understanding women and children’s voices
  • They have a hard time understanding in a crowd
  • It’s hard for them to understand on the phone
  • They favor one ear over the other
  • They complain of a ringing sensation in one or both ears
  • They often appear uncomfortable in social occasions they used to enjoy
  • They seem withdrawn, depressed or irritable
  • Other friends or family members have noticed their difficulty hearing


While a few “yes” answers don’t automatically indicate a hearing loss, it does suggest the need for further evaluation.

  9 Common Myths & Facts  
A lot of what passes for knowledge about hearing loss and hearing instruments today is based on outdated, or simply erroneous, information. Before you make any big decisions about hearing loss, check out the real story behind these common myths:
MYTH: Only a few people are truly hearing impaired; the statistics don’t apply to me or those close to me.
Fact:  With 28 million reporting hearing loss in the US alone, or one in 10 people, odds are good that you or someone you know is indeed affected by hearing loss—especially if you’re age 60.
MYTH: If I did have a hearing impairment, I’d certainly know about it.
Fact:  The truth is, hearing loss happens gradually and the signs are subtle at first. Our own built-in defenses and ability to adapt make it difficult to self-diagnose. A simple hearing test can help you gain insight, while professional screening can provide a more definitive answer.
MYTH: Most hearing problems can’t be helped.
Fact:  30 or 40 years ago, that was true. Today, 90% of hearing loss—the kind that’s brought on by age or exposure to noise—is very responsive to treatment in the form of technically advanced hearing instruments.
MYTH: If you’re hearing impaired, it just means sounds aren’t loud enough.
Fact:  Hearing isn’t only about loudness or decibel level. Typically, hearing loss has more to do with the frequency of the sound—that is, its pitch—than its loudness. When hearing loss occurs, it’s harder to hear higher pitches—especially when there is background noise to complicate the picture, such as conversation in a noisy restaurant. That’s why amplifying incoming sounds alone isn’t as effective in treating hearing loss as amplifying selectively.
MYTH: Living with hearing loss is not a big deal.
Fact:  There are many psychological effects to hearing loss, including frustration, withdrawal, and depression. Trouble communicating with others creates a strain on relationships and a loss of esteem. It’s far better to deal with hearing loss than to pretend it isn’t happening—or to ignore the effect it is having on those around you.
MYTH: Hearing instruments are obvious and unattractive.
Fact:  While it’s true that hearing instruments don’t enjoy the fashion status of a pair of glasses, new technology has made these devices remarkably discreet. Many people can wear instruments that are either tucked well inside the ear or almost completely hidden in the ear canal. Behind-the-ear styles are often disguised by hairstyles.
MYTH: Hearing loss and hearing instruments are a sign of old age.
Fact:  Things are changing. Just as hearing loss is itself no longer the province of the elderly (there are more hearing-impaired people in the 45-64 year-old age category than there are in the over-65 age group), neither is wearing a hearing instrument. Many of the baby boomers now experiencing hearing loss will undoubtedly invest in better hearing sooner than later. And, as a culture, we’re increasingly showing our preference for treatment over doing nothing — witness the popularity of such investments in life as laser eye surgery and hormone replacement therapy, to name a few. Indeed, doing nothing to help yourself may be seen as a more obvious sign of old age than the problem itself.
MYTH: Really good hearing instruments are prohibitively expensive.
Fact:  Better hearing through technology is within the reach of most people. The real issue is quality of life, and what it’s worth to you. While good hearing instruments are seen as expensive, putting a price on a better life experience is hard to do. You have to weigh the benefits and make your own decision. However you choose to look at it, treating hearing loss and enjoying the benefits is still relatively inexpensive compared to treating most health problems
MYTH: Hearing instruments don’t work.
Fact:  Hearing instruments won’t restore lost hearing or stop the progression of age- or noise-related hearing loss. And because hearing is as much a function of the brain as it is the inner ear, hearing aids aren’t the whole story in hearing better. But smart new technologies, including the ability to amplify sound selectively, do help most people to hear better in most situations. Even so, it needs to be said that no hearing instrument, no matter how sophisticated, will work unless you are willing to wear and adapt to it.

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