Hearing loss - Symptoms and causes. Overview. Hearing loss that occurs gradually as you age (presbycusis) is common.
About 2. 5 percent of people in the United States between the ages of 5. For those older than 6. Aging and chronic exposure to loud noises are significant factors that contribute to hearing loss. Other factors, such as excessive earwax, can temporarily prevent your ears from conducting sounds as well as they should. You can't reverse most types of hearing loss. However, you don't have to live in a world of muted, less distinct sounds.
You and your doctor or a hearing specialist can take steps to improve what you hear. Symptoms. Signs and symptoms of hearing loss may include: Muffling of speech and other sounds. Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd of people.
Trouble hearing consonants. Frequently asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly. Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio. Withdrawal from conversations. Avoidance of some social settings. When to see a doctor. If you have a sudden loss of hearing, particularly in one ear, seek immediate medical attention.
Talk to your doctor if difficulty hearing is interfering with your daily life. Your hearing may have deteriorated if: You find that it's harder to understand everything that's said in conversation, especially when there's background noise. Sounds seem muffled. You find yourself having to turn the volume higher when you listen to music, the radio or television. Causes. The ear is made up of three primary parts: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. Swimming Ear Bands For Adults on this page.
Each section is composed of structures that play distinct roles in the process of converting sound waves into signals that go to the brain. The outer ear is composed of the visible part of the ear (pinna) and the ear canal. The cup- shaped pinna (PIN- uh) gathers sound waves from the environment and directs them into the ear canal. The middle ear is an air- filled cavity that holds a chain of three bones: the hammer, anvil and stirrup. These bones are separated from the outer ear by the eardrum (tympanic membrane), which when struck by a sound wave, vibrates. The middle ear is connected to the back of your nose and upper part of your throat by a narrow channel called the auditory tube (eustachian tube).
The tube opens and closes at the throat end to equalize the pressure in the middle ear with that of the environment and drain fluids. Equal pressure on both sides of the eardrum is important for normal vibration of the eardrum. The middle ear contains three tiny bones: Hammer (malleus) — attached to eardrum. Anvil (incus) — in the middle of the chain of bones. Stirrup (stapes) — attached to the membrane- covered opening that connects the middle ear with the inner ear (oval window)The vibration of the eardrum triggers a chain of vibrations through the bones. Because of differences in the size, shape and position of the three bones, the force of the vibration increases by the time it reaches the inner ear.
This increase in force is necessary to transfer the energy of the sound wave to the fluid of the inner ear. The inner ear contains a group of interconnected, fluid- filled chambers. The snail- shaped chamber, called the cochlea (KOK- lee- uh), plays a role in hearing. Sound vibrations from the bones of the middle ear are transferred to the fluids of the cochlea.
Tiny sensors (hair cells) lining the cochlea convert the vibrations into electrical impulses that are transmitted along the auditory nerve to your brain. The other fluid- filled chambers of the inner ear include three tubes called the semicircular canals (vestibular labyrinth).
Hair cells in the semicircular canals detect the motion of the fluids when you move in any direction. They convert the motion into electrical signals that are transmitted along the vestibular nerve to the brain. This sensory information enables you to maintain your sense of balance. Electrical impulses travel along the auditory nerve and pass through several information- processing centers. Signals from the right ear travel to the auditory cortex located in the temporal lobe on the left side of the brain.
Signals from the left ear travel to the right auditory cortex. The auditory cortices sort, process, interpret and file information about the sound. The comparison and analysis of all the signals that reach the brain enable you to detect certain sounds and suppress other sounds as background noise.
Some causes of hearing loss include damage to the inner ear, a buildup of earwax, infections and a ruptured eardrum. To understand how hearing loss occurs, it can be helpful to understand how you hear. How you hear. Hearing occurs when sound waves reach the structures inside your ear, where the sound wave vibrations are converted into nerve signals that your brain recognizes as sound. Your ear consists of three major areas: outer ear, middle ear and inner ear.
Sound waves pass through the outer ear and cause vibrations at the eardrum.
Hearing loss — Comprehensive overview covers symptoms, treatment, prevention of age- and noise-related hearing loss.
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