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How Do We Hear? An Insight into Our Hearing Mechanism!

Wednesday, September 4, 2019 1:48:58 PM Asia/Calcutta

Human beings can be an active part of this world only with the help of the five senses - namely sight, hearing, smell, taste and touch. If one of the senses breaks down, an individual faces great changes with difficult challenges coming on the way.

 

Hearing Loss and Its Causes

Partial or total inability to hear is termed as hearing loss. Various causes like ear infections, malformations in the internal ear structure, overexposure to loud noises, infections or other health conditions, genetic issues and even leading an unhealthy lifestyle might lead to hearing impairment. However, there is always a way out. There are many hearing loss treatment options like advanced and smart digital hearing aids and cochlear implants which are designed to make your life better.

To know more about how a hearing aid machine works, this blog might be helpful: Understanding Your Hearing Aid Machine.

 

Parts of the Human Ear

The human ear comprises three main parts, namely the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.

  • The outer ear - It consists of the pinna or the auricle and the auditory canal. The tympanic membrane or the eardrum divides the outer ear from the middle ear.

  • The middle ear - The middle ear of mammals consists of three small ear bones, namely malleus, incus, and stapes (hammer, anvil, and stirrup) - together known as the ossicles. The ossicles provide further energy and impetus required to transfer the sound signals from the eardrum to the oval window of the cochlea. The eustachian tube is another part of the middle ear. It connects the middle ear with the back of the nose and helps to equalise the pressure in the middle ear, thus helping in the proper transfer of the sound waves.

  • The inner ear - The inner ear consists of the most important organ responsible for hearing - the spiral-shaped cochlea. Apart from the cochlea, the inner ear also comprises the vestibule and the semicircular canals which are responsible for body balance.

 

How Do We Hear?

The human hearing mechanism is quite a complex one. There are a series of steps involved in between the receipt of the sound waves by the outer ear to our actual act of ‘hearing’ it. Let’s have a brief look at them -

  • The outer ear receives the sound waves which travel down the auditory canal and strike the eardrum.

  • This causes the eardrum or the tympanic membrane to vibrate.

  • These vibrations are then passed over to the ossicles or the three tiny ear bones.

  • The ossicles amplify the sounds and transfer them to the inner ear.

  • The fluid-filled hearing organ - the cochlea receives these sounds and processes and converts them into electrical impulses.

  • These converted sound signals are then transferred to the brain via the auditory nerve.

  • The brain on receiving them translates them as sounds which are then perceived by us. This is the moment when we can actually ‘hear’.

However, apart from hearing, the vestibular system situated in our inner ear is also responsible for body balance and equilibrium. This is why hearing loss is often associated with vertigo and balance problems.

Our ear is, therefore, an important organ of our body. Damage caused to it would bring about many health conditions.

Consult a certified audiologist to get your hearing test done from time to time, to avoid any complications. An untreated hearing loss might have a great impact on one’s life. Treat any hearing problem on time and never delay in getting proper treatment of hearing loss.

If you want to learn more about hearing loss and the various hearing loss treatment options available, this article might help: Hearing Loss Treatment Center.

Discuss with your audiologist and learn about the different hearing aids types and the hearing aid price list before you buy hearing aids. Consider going through this article: https://hearingplus.in/cheapest-hearing-aids-india/

Otitis Media and Hearing Loss

Sunday, August 25, 2019 11:56:46 PM Asia/Calcutta

One might never know what caused a person to lose his or her hearing ability - (until he or she gets a diagnostic test done, of course). Because it might be due to any reason or condition and there are so many of them. It might be due to exposure to loud noises, due to some injury in the head and neck region, due to ageing, due to smoking, due to some health conditions and genetic reasons, or due to some viral infections - one among which is Otitis media.

 

What is Otitis Media?

Otitis media is an ear infection affecting the middle ear - the air-filled space behind the eardrum or tympanic membrane. In the condition, there is an inflammation of the middle ear which is usually associated with fluid build-up. It mainly affects infants and young children. The symptoms, severity, frequency and duration of Otitis media might vary.

 

Signs and Symptoms

Usually, there is nop pain or fever associated with Otitis media. So how can you tell if your child is suffering from the condition? Here’s a checklist to guide you.

  • Inattentiveness

  • Inappropriate speech and language development

  • Misunderstanding directions or instructions

  • Wanting to raise up the TV or radio volume

  • Unexplained irritability

  • Pulling or scratching at the ears

 

What are the Causes?

In children, the most common cause of the condition might be fluctuating conductive hearing loss. The other causes of Otitis media are -

  • Upper respiratory infections, like common cold, allergies, flu

  • Sinus infection

  • Smoking (even second-hand)

  • Drinking while laying down

  • Infected or enlarged adenoids (a mass of soft tissue behind the nasal cavity present in infants and gradually disappears with age)

Relation Between Otitis Media and Hearing Loss

Middle ear infections can affect the hearing abilities of children. Infections like Otitis Media might hamper the smooth conduction of sound waves from the outer ear to the inner ear via the middle ear. However, the condition is almost always temporary and doesn’t cause any permanent damage to hearing.

Link with Speech and Language Development

However, the sad news is if you avoid the condition and leave it thinking that it would heal naturally, then you would be doing the worst mistake of your life! If you don’t get a proper hearing loss treatment for your child suffering from Otitis media, then your child’s hearing problems might lead to impaired speech and language as a child learns communication skills only by the way of hearing. And even if you do get a proper hearing loss treatment later realising that your child’s speech and language development is way behind than his or her peers, then also he or she would not do it quite as naturally as the learning process should have been. Because there is a golden period in which a child learns particular developmental skills - including speech and language.

Therefore, going for a good hearing loss treatment for any of your child’s hearing problems is necessary. Consult a professional audiologist and secure your child’s future.

How Loud is Too Loud?

Sunday, August 18, 2019 11:05:11 PM Asia/Calcutta

You may be a great music lover and love to keep your favourite playlist running on for hours with your headphones put one. You love to dance to its rhythm and be absolutely lost in your own world. But do you know that even that lovely tune is harmful to your ears?

Each day we are exposed to harmfully loud sounds - be it traffic, loudspeakers on the streets, construction equipment, televisions, and the like - which means a constant attack to our ears and hence our precious hearing! Most of the times you get tempted by those loud songs and end up being exposed to high decibels of noises, such as going to a rock concert, burning firecrackers in celebration or during Diwali - our favourite festival of lights, blowing the horn in impatience while travelling to office, or as simple as turning the TV or radio volume or playing some music player at the comfort of your room. All these little activities might greatly increase the risks of hearing loss and it’s high time that you must be cautious.

Yes, there are advanced methods of hearing loss treatment today - be it high quality digital hearing aids packed with a host of smart and intelligent features or cochlear implants, which are designed to provide you the best listening experience, but the harsh reality is no treatment of hearing loss can ever bring back your natural hearing, once it’s gone! And in most cases, noise-induced hearing loss or NIHL is permanent in nature and the damage remains forever. A good hearing aid machine can only amplify the sound for you and do nothing more!

 

How Will You Know If You Are at Risk of Hearing Loss?

Did anyone ever tell you to turn down the volume of your music in your headphones, or your television or radio? If yes, then do listen to them; they might be right! It is simply because the music which you feel is okay or you are comfortable in, might be too loud for others. Now before you turn up the volume again, learn how loud is really very loud for your ears? And what is the safe listening duration for each decibel of sound? Here’s a table describing each sound decibel along with their sources.

 

Noise Source

    dB   

  Safe Exposure Time

  Effect on Humans

Whisper

30

Infinite

None

Rain

50

Infinite

None

Dishwasher

60

Infinite

None

Food Mixer

70

Infinite

None

Washing Machine

80

Infinite

None

Traffic

85

8 hours

Risk

Lawnmower

90

2 hours

Risk

Power Tools

100

15 minutes

Injurious

Chainsaw

110

2 minutes

Injurious

Jackhammer

120

15 seconds

Injurious

Ambulance Siren

130

0 seconds

Dangerous

Firecrackers

140

0 seconds

Dangerous

Gunshot

165

0 seconds

Dangerous

 

When to Seek Help?

While some noises can be avoided easily, others are not in your hand. In such a case where you can’t help it but be exposed to these loud noises, do consider self-protecting your ears with the help of earplugs or earmuffs. Do consider carrying them wherever you go, because in certain situations you are really going to need them.

However, if you do find certain hearing problems, do get a hearing test done immediately. Learn about the signs and symptoms of hearing loss in our previous blog: ‘Hearing Loss: Early Signs and Treatment’.

Depending on how loud the sound is and how long the duration of exposure is, you can be at risk of noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). While some noises can cause mild to moderate hearing loss, other extremely loud ones can cause severe to profound loss - thereby, damaging your hearing permanently.

But there is nothing to panic in such a case. There are so many advanced hearing loss treatment technologies like digital hearing aids or cochlear implants, which are both highly effective and risk-free.

Learn about some cool must-have features in the modern-day digital hearing aids, if you are planning to buy one: ‘7 Must-have Features in Your Digital Hearing Aids’.

Consult a certified Audiologist before making a decision, and get your hearing checked from a recognised hearing aid clinic from time to time. Based on your test results your Audiologist will decide the best solution for you in case you are diagnosed with a hearing loss.

Protect Your Unborn Baby Against Hearing Loss

Friday, August 16, 2019 5:09:15 PM Asia/Calcutta

Yes, your baby might have a risk of developing hearing loss even before birth! While some causes aren’t quite preventable, some others can really be prevented and are completely in your hands. Many a time the cause of hearing loss in the baby in your womb is due to a lack of carefulness and caution. You as a mother must make it a point to take care of your baby in every possible way. Always remember, a healthy you mean a healthy baby!

However, simply talking about the mother’s health would be wrong. The health of the father matters equally and therefore, both the parents must follow healthy habits to avoid any complications of the baby - including hearing. Because leading a healthy lifestyle is key to protect your child’s hearing health, which is much better than hearing loss treatment. Always keep this in mind that if a baby is born with permanent hearing impairment, no treatment of hearing loss can ever replace it with the natural hearing of an individual.

Let Not Your Unborn Baby Suffer

Factors Affecting Hearing Health in the Fetus

Certain health conditions of the mother do affect the hearing health of the child during pregnancy. For instance, suppose if a mother has some infections, then certain viruses or infections can get transferred down to the fetus. However, apart from health conditions, there are certain unhealthy habits that might damage the hearing of your baby, such as smoking, alcohol intake, not maintaining a proper and balanced diet, and other such detrimental lifestyle habits. Let’s have a look at how these habits or health conditions hamper the hearing development of the fetus.

 

Unhealthy Habits

  • Smoking and Intake of alcoholic beverages - Toxins from cigarettes and alcoholic drinks are very harmful to hearing as well as the overall health of the child. These substances reduce the cell formation of the fetus which affects the hearing organs, which remain underdeveloped for life. The child in such a case is born with fewer auditory sensory cells than its peers with normal hearing development, thus increasing the risks of hearing loss caused due to noise exposure or aging.

  • Not following a balanced and healthy diet - Malnutrition leads to the underdevelopment of the fetus - including hearing. If a woman doesn’t maintain a good and healthy diet as advised by the doctor, the hearing organs and cells won’t develop properly, thereby increasing the risks of hearing loss both during the fetus stage and after birth.

  • Exposure to loud noises - Even in the mother’s uterus, the baby is highly vulnerable to noise. The hearing mechanism of the fetus is fully developed after 20 weeks of conception and is quite unprotected. If a woman is exposed to high decibels of noise for most of the day or for a significant amount of time, it is highly possible that her baby will be born with noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL). Studies show that exposure to loud noises during pregnancy can lead to premature delivery. Also, increased noise levels can cause stress which can cause changes in a pregnant woman's body. This can affect her developing baby in her womb. It is because sound can travel through your body and reach your unborn baby. Although this sound will be muffled in the womb, very loud noises might still be able to damage your baby's hearing even in the pre-natal stage.

 

Health Conditions

  • Rubella (German Measles) - It is an infection that affects the skin and lymph nodes and is caused by a virus. If a pregnant woman is affected by the infection, then it can have serious effects on the child, thus affecting the hearing health of the baby.

  • Measles - This can spread easily, causing rash, fever, cough and hearing loss.

  • Herpes - Studies show that four out of five children born of mothers infected with the herpes virus during early pregnancy might develop hearing loss.

  • Cytomegalovirus (CMV) - This is a common virus that can pass over to the fetus from an infected pregnant woman. This is known as congenital CMV which is a leading cause of non-genetic hearing loss, thus affecting speech and language developmental skills.

  • Toxoplasmosis - This infection, often caused by undercooked meat or touching cat poop, causes problems like headaches, body aches, fever, fatigue and hearing loss.

Sadly, some congenital hearing loss (which is present at birth) cannot be prevented. However, following a proper and well-planned hearing loss treatment schedule can help you manage your child’s hearing loss better - especially in the generation of a technological boom. Today’s advanced hearing loss treatment methods like the updated digital hearing aid machine and cochlear implants can help your child develop speech and language skills on time at par with the developmental milestones.

To learn more about factors causing hearing loss during pregnancy, visit this link: https://www.hear-it.org/Protect-your-unborn-baby-against-hearing-loss

 

How to Prevent Your Baby from Developing Hearing Loss?

Now that you are aware of the possible factors affecting the hearing health of your baby in your womb, let’s talk about some preventive measures that can help you protect your child’s hearing health.

  • Quit smoking immediately. Not only you as a pregnant woman should quit smoking (if you have the habit), but you must also ask your family members in your home or other people you are living with to do so - because second-hand smoking is much more dangerous. Motivate them to quit smoking and make them realise that it is harmful to your baby. Every individual must keep this in mind and be responsible.

  • No alcohol intake. Similar is the case with alcoholic drinks. Quit them during pregnancy. It is harmful to both your baby and yourself.

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD)

  • Maintain a proper and balanced diet. Talk to your paediatrician or a mother and child healthcare specialist about the good foods and the bad ones. Also discuss your health conditions (if any), so that he or she might set a proper diet chart for you.

  • Avoid being exposed to loud noises. If you have the habit of listening to loud music for hours together, then it’s high time that you must drop it at once! Yes, of course, you will listen to music - it is good for your health as it brings mental peace and calm. But if you do so for hours without a break or without controlling the volume, even that soothing music might turn dangerous for your baby! Make it a habit to reduce the timing and volume of the music.

  • Treat any health condition or infectious diseases at once. Being an expecting mother, never delay or ignore any health issue. Get proper treatment right away. Certain diseases or infections can be carried down to the fetus and might affect its hearing.

  • Avoid taking ototoxic medications.  Certain medications are toxic for the fetus. Consult your doctor and child specialist before taking any medicine.

Prevention is better than any hearing loss treatment. A little care makes a huge difference!

Are you aware of any other causes or preventive measures to protect your baby’s hearing during pregnancy? Tell us in the comment box below.

Also, tell us if you like informative blogs like these. You are also free to recommend if you have a topic in mind and you want us to cover any subject.

Tips for Protecting Your Child's Hearing

Sunday, July 21, 2019 10:53:42 PM Asia/Calcutta

Hearing loss in children can occur in children due to various reasons. About 34 million children are suffering from a disabling hearing loss. 60% of childhood hearing loss is due to causes that can be easily prevented.

 

What Causes Hearing Loss in Children?

While some children are born with a hearing loss - the condition of which is known as Congenital hearing loss - due to reasons like -

  • Infections like Rubella or Herpes simplex

  • Birth defects or injuries

  • Premature birth

  • Genetics

  • Low birth weight

  • Maternal diabetes

  • Drug and alcohol consumption during pregnancy

  • High blood pressure while pregnant

  • Jaundice or Rh factor problems

Others acquire it after birth due to various reasons - the condition known as Acquired hearing loss. Some common factors affecting hearing abilities in children as they grow up include -

  • Exposure to loud noises

  • Ear infections like Otitis media

  • Intake of ototoxic drugs

  • Head or neck injury

  • Chicken pox

  • Mumps

  • Measles

  • Influenza

  • Mumps

  • Meningitis

 

What are the Common Symptoms?

If your child shows these signs, then it’s high time you must consult a professional Audiologist.

  • Distracted behaviour and attention problems

  • Not responding properly in noisy situations

  • Increased fatigue after school or after being in a noisy area

  • Reports of ear pain or other annoyance with the ears or the head

  • Muffled hearing

  • Tinnitus (ringing in the ears) or hearing strange noises in the ears when there are no external sounds present

How to Protect Your Child's Ears from Exposure to Loud Noises?

  • Follow the 60-60 rule. Reduce the time and volume of your child's exposure to loud sounds. The volume exposed to should not exceed 60% and the time of exposure shouldn't be more than 60 minutes at a stretch.
  • Give them ear defenders or ear protectors like earplugs or earmuffs to wear while in abnormally noisy situations.
  • Control and monitor the volume of your TV or radio.
  • Keep your home environment as noise-free as possible. Excessive noises can distract children, thus losing attention to what you are saying. Too much noise would also irritate your child.
  • Of course, test your child's hearing from time to time. Monitor your child's response rates and speech and language development skills. Check whether he or she is developing the communication skills as per the developmental milestones.
  • Consult with a professional Audiologist and a Speech-Language Pathologist to confirm whether your child is having proper access to the hearing world and that he or she is learning speech and language correctly at par with his or her peers.

Nowadays, most hospitals do offer hearing test after delivery. Make it a point to go through a newborn hearing screening before you take your child home. Early intervention is necessary so that you can start a proper hearing loss treatment procedure on time - be it hearing aids or cochlear implants. A child must need to have proper access to the hearing world so as to develop good speech and language skills.

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