As we grow older, hearing loss is one of the changes in our body that can affect us most. Unfortunately our ability to listen can diminish over time, especially as we move into maturity, and that can impact on many aspects of living an independent life. According to Connect Hearing, 1 in 2 people over the age of 60 has a reduced ability to hear.
So what happens when our hearing starts to go, what are some of the causes and how do we treat it?
How we hear
Hearing is a complex process involving some of the tiniest bones in the body, so it's not entirely surprising that it can decrease in sensitivity with age. When sound waves reach your outer ear, they are funnelled through your ear canal onto the ear drum – a thin membrane at the base of the canal.
This drum vibrates and transmits the signals through a series of miniscule bones to a spiral-shaped organ called the cochlea. Finally, the cochlea turns these vibrations into data and sends them to the brain, which is when we finally truly 'hear'. This entire process is, of course, near-instant.
How to help with hearing loss
There are many reasons apart from age that our hearing can diminish. A lifetime of using loud equipment can make your ears less sensitive later on, though other influences such as disease, injury and hereditary traits may also play a role.
There are two types of hearing loss: conductive and sensorineural. To summarise, conductive loss occurs when something blocks sound waves from reaching your auditory nerve. This could be as simple as ear wax or as complex as a hereditary condition. Sensorineural hearing loss, on the other hand, happens when the inner ear is damaged or when something in the nerves goes wrong. This could be caused by disease, age or a variety of factors.
If you believe you suffer from hearing loss, chat with your doctor and get a check-up. If it's conductive, a simple procedure could easily ramify the problem. If it's sensorineural, ask about what hearing aids may be best for you.
There are different types of hearing aid, from ones that are custom-fitted to sit inside your outer ear to ones that simply clip on behind it. These devices amplify sound transmitted into your ear, meaning you can continue to age in place without constantly asking people to speak up or repeat themselves.
Newcastle has plenty of hearing specialists to help you out, such as Audio Clinic or Bloom, so don't hesitate to go and get looked at.