What you don’t know can hurt you and your future. To understand why, let’s look at the process of human hearing. Sounds are mechanical vibrations carried through air and mass. Most sounds enter our ear canals and vibrate our eardrums. The eardrum transmits the vibrations through the middle ear over the three smallest bones in our body. These are the malleus, incus, and stapes. In school, you may have called them the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. The three bones then vibrate the inner ear called the cochlea.
Anything that interrupts that flow of vibrations is called a conductive hearing loss. These interruptions can be as simple as wax blockage or fluid in the middle ear. They can also be caused by more serious health issues. Sometimes, we can treat and correct these problems medically.
When the vibrations arrive at the cochlea (a snail-shaped tube of small hairs in fluid), they are turned into electrical impulses and sent to the brain for translation and interpretation. If the cochlea is damaged from exposure to loud noises, genetics, illness, or other issues, it loses its ability to transmit the signal to the brain properly. This is called a sensorineural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss cannot be medically treated. However, it can be treated by compensating for the loss by replacing the signals that are diminished.
Here is the KEY to keeping your ability to hear, understand, and enjoy your relationships, entertainment, and life: You must keep the flow of sound coming to your brain at the correct levels.
From the description of the process of hearing, we see that there are two components that make up your ability to have normal hearing. First is the ability of the ear to receive and send the correct signals to your brain. Second is the ability of the brain to receive, translate, and interpret those signals in real time. If the flow of sound is diminished for any reason, then the brain becomes starved for those signals. Over a period of time, it may lose its ability to translate and interpret correctly. This means it may be unable to recognize the meaning of the sounds or unable to keep up with speech dialog. Delayed treatment of hearing loss can cause serious damage to the brain’s ability to function normally in understanding speech. The longer the delay, the greater the possibility of damage. That is the reason we recommend a hearing screening or exam.
Even if you don’t suspect having a hearing loss, getting a hearing exam baseline is important for other reasons. It becomes your legal medical record and establishes a history in the event that you were to suffer an accident or illness that may damage your hearing. If, following such an accident or illness, you found yourself in litigation, you would have proof that your condition was not pre-existing.
What you don’t know can hurt you, but you can avoid that pain with a simple exam! Get your baseline hearing exam, follow it with annual hearing screenings, and take control of your future ability to hear and understand.