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Do you hear me?

2012-09-04

Hearing loss, whether we lose it suddenly or gradually over time, can leave you feeling alone and isolated from family, friends and from everyone and everything around you. It is a huge safety concern, not being able to hear sirens from your car, a tornado siren from your house, or a smoke alarm in your house. The simple everyday noises fade away to silence. Distinct words become muffled and hard to understand. Repetition becomes the norm and people are forced to raise their voice for you to hear. People start to ignore talking to you as well as you might want to avoid conversation, especially in a crowded environment like a restaurant.

There are several types of hearing loss, including:

-Conductive hearing loss. Parts in the outer or middle ear are damaged possibly from middle ear infections, head injury damaging the inner ear, birth defect or disease such as otosclerosis.

-Sensorineural hearing loss. Parts in the inner ear (cochlea, auditory nerve system) do not work properly, possibly from genetics, too much loud noise, head injury, certain medications (damage inner ear hair cells), diseases (measles, mumps, meningitis, Menieres), normal aging process and birth defects.

-Mixed hearing loss. This is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. A combination of damage in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve system.

-Unilateral profound senorineural hearing loss (single-sided deafness). This is no hearing or very little hearing in one ear (sensorineural hearing loss), with the other ear functioning normal or close to normal.

Luckily, there are things that can be done. There are several types of hearing aids, some fitting on the outside of the ear and some fit snug on the inside of the ear, depending on the type of hearing loss and what the doctor recommends. Hearing aids are not cheap. However, by checking around and talking to the doctor, he or she can advise you and help you find the right ones. There is also something called Cochlear Implants, a medical device, surgically implanted that helps people with moderate to profound hearing loss. This treatment is for those who no longer get help from hearing aids. If you are able to get your hearing aids, it will take some time to adjust to how they feel and all of the “noise” that you are not used to! You will love hearing a conversation for the first time spoken, instead of having it repeated. You will hear the conversation correctly and not have to guess on what was really said and you will find that people once again like having a conversation with you! Listen to your family and friends… if they are telling you that you should see your doctor about your hearing, then you should. Who knows… it might be just an ear full of wax!

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