Simply put, our ears detect sound waves and the sound waves are sent to the brain by nerve impulses for interpretation.
More specifically, our outer ear (the auricle and ear canal) funnels sound waves to our middle ear. In the middle ear, the eardrum is caused to vibrate by the sound waves. Those vibrations continue on through three tiny connected bones. The eardrum and connected bones cause fluid in the inner ear to move as well. That fluid then causes thousands of hair-like cells to move. The vibrations, or movement, is then translated into nerve impulses which are carried to the brain by the auditory nerve. What we hear as sound is the brain’s interpretation of this process.
Significant loss of hearing, due to age, can begin as early as 20-30 years old. Loss of hearing due to noise exposure can be caused by everything from concerts to guns to drills—just to name a few. Hearing loss due to injuries can be anything from head trauma to sticking something too far into the ear canal. Genetic inheritance hearing loss is usually something a person is born with.
Today’s technology has advanced to the point where nearly 99% of hearing losses can be helped, improved or eradicated.
- or at least slow the progress
The single most effective way to prevent hearing loss is to avoid excessive noise. Additionally, wearing hearing protection in areas where excessive noise is unavoidable can be highly effective. Studies show a connection between age, noise exposure, smoking and hearing loss. Buildup of earwax can also create hearing loss and should be dealt with properly and/or by a professional. Some medications can damage your hearing. So, a thorough check by your doctor for potentially ototoxic interactions would be prudent. Have your hearing tested regularly if you have a family history of hearing loss, have troubles hearing, are around loud noises a lot or you have ringing sounds in your ears.
Ear muffs and ear plugs are a great way to help prevent hearing loss. If you spend any amount of time in an environment that has excessive noise, we would be happy to consult with you on custom hearing protection options.