Listening to a friend laughing at a joke, a dog barking to get your attention, singing along to your favourite song…how you would feel if these experiences were slowly taken from you? In this context, it’s easy to understand how and why the ability to hear connects us to others and the world around us.
In most cases, hearing loss occurs over several years. Gradually, it becomes harder for people affected by hearing loss to go about their daily activities with ease (e.g. asking people to repeat themselves on the phone, dealing with complaints from family about how loud you listen to the television or having trouble understanding what a waiter is telling you at a busy restaurant). You may not notice your own hearing loss; typically, family members, friends and colleagues notice it before you do.
All of the signs described above are typical for people experiencing hearing loss. With so many options available today, hearing loss is not something that you have to accept or endure. Poor communication with family, friends and colleagues can lead to irritability, stress, isolation and even depression can be associated with hearing loss.
While the idea of wearing hearing aids may take time to accept, the earlier you address your hearing loss, the easier it will be to adjust to regaining your hearing – and greater overall quality of life – once again.
Left untreated, hearing loss can negatively influence our lives in the following ways:
Hearing impairments can occur in all parts of the ear; dysfunctions of the outer or middle ear are generally treatable by medication or surgery. However, 80% of all hearing impairments are caused by damage to or lack of functionality in the inner ear. Modern hearing aids can mitigate most inner ear damage.
Binaural hearing, or hearing with both ears, helps us localize sounds. This is why we have two ears! It also allows us to precisely focus on what we want to hear by letting us perceive certain sounds, like speech, louder and clearer while ignoring others (e.g. a car passing by). A few of the most important binaural processes include binaural redundancy, binaural squelch, and binaural directed listening.
When we hear a sound in both ears, it’s like we hear the same sound twice. This repetition helps our brain create an improved perceptual image of the sound.
For people with hearing loss, this effect is significantly reduced. When patients wear hearing aids, it helps bring back the benefit of binaural redundancy.
In situations where there is both noise and speech for us to distinguish, hearing with both ears helps our brain to decide which sounds to prioritize (and listen to); this makes speech seem louder than it actually is.
If you have hearing loss, this effect is significantly reduced. Wearing two hearing instruments can help restore the natural benefits of binaural squelch.
In noisy situations with many different sounds competing for your brain’s attention, hearing with both ears helps our brain choose the one single sound source we’re interested in, and focus on it.
People with hearing loss struggle to make these distinctions. Hearing aids are designed to restore our ability to perform binaural directed listening.