Mild to pronounced hearing impairment
- Medicine and/or surgery
- Use of a hearing aid in one or both ears
One in 10Americans have some type of hearing loss. Hearing impairment falls in one of two categories. The simplest and most treatable with medicineor surgery results from some blockage of sound from the inner ear (Conductive Hearing Loss). But the inner ear is very sensitive and a variety of things can cause irreversible damage sensorineural hearing loss.
Of all the causes of inner ear damage the most common is aging. As we grow older the microscopic hairs in the inner ear that are so important in the transmitting of sound signals to the brain, begin to deteriorate.As they die off, diminished hearing results. Damage can also occur due to sudden or prolonged noise, head injury, certain drugs, a benign tumor or hereditary disorder.
Sensorineural hearing loss may make it difficult to hear soft sounds,like birds singing. High-pitched tones, like a violin, may not be accessible.A person may also experience a declining ability to distinguish one sound from another. For example, he or she might hear a conversation, but notunderstand. Especially difficult to distinguish are words that begin with consonants. Through various tests the doctor will be able to determine to what degree the patient suffers from any or all of these conditions.
Although sensorineural hearing loss can’t be cured, use of a hearing aid may improve the problem significantly. Three types of hearing aids are available. One fits in the ear, another fits in the ear canal and the other rests behind the ear. Some hearing aids have a switch that allows them to be used with a special telephone. However, all have the same basic parts:
- Microphone that picks up sound
- Amplifier to increase volume
- Speaker/receiver to send sound to the ear canal
- Battery to supply power
- On/off switch
- Volume adjuster
A mold of the ear is made from which to construct a custom hearing aid for the patient. Production takes about two weeks. Time and patience are required as the patient adjusts to the hearing aid. Voices may sound different and background noise may be very noticeable. The hearing aid will not make hearing entirely normal but will improve it significantly. An aid should work well for several years.