Tagged: sensorineural hearing loss

Understanding the Wide Array of Hearing Disorders

May 16, 2016

Are you having difficulty understanding the words when someone speaks to you? Do you find yourself straining to hear your favorite songs on the radio or television? Perhaps you are beginning to avoid situations where you have to interact with others because of the embarrassment of asking them to repeat what they’ve just said. Don’t wait any longer. Call for an appointment with your Doctor of Audiology to have a hearing evaluation which will determine if you have a hearing loss or if it’s a problem that could easily be resolved medically.

The first steps toward hearing better involve consulting with an Audiologist who will determine what type and degree of hearing loss you have. Most people think if you can’t hear, it is simply a problem with your ears. What most people don’t realize is that you hear with your ears but you listen with your brain. It’s important to take a thorough look at the entire hearing system (mechanical working ear, sensory system and brain) to determine the next best step toward better hearing. Your Audiologist will begin by determining through the hearing evaluation which part of your ear (or ears) is affected.

Hearing loss can be categorized by which part of the auditory system has been affected. Generally, a hearing loss will fall into one of three main categories: Conductive hearing loss, Sensorineural hearing loss, or Mixed hearing loss.

Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is not conducted efficiently through the outer ear or middle ear system, which includes the eardrum and tiny ear bones, called ossicles. Conductive hearing loss may be caused by fluid behind the eardrum or a malfunction in the Eustachian tube, the tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the throat. Conductive hearing loss can also be something as simple as having too much wax in the outer ear canal. This type of hearing loss can often be corrected medically or surgically.

Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the inner ear, or along the nerve pathway between the inner ear and the brain. It can be caused by genetics, the aging process, infection or disease, long periods of exposure to extreme noise, exposure to certain medications or drugs that are toxic to the ear. This type of hearing loss is not generally treatable medically and is usually permanent. Hearing aids can be a good solution for most types of sensorineural hearing loss.

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both Conductive and Sensorineural hearing loss in one or both ears. Your Audiologist will discuss the best method for improving your hearing if it is found that you have this type of hearing loss.

Understanding your hearing loss is the first step toward better hearing. If your hearing loss is treatable, your Doctor of Audiology will refer you to an appropriate medical specialist. If your hearing loss is permanent, your Audiologist will work with you to find the best possible solution. Having a hearing loss does not have to interfere with your daily life. Hearing aids designed and fitted specifically for you can improve the social interactions with your family and friends. Don’t waste another day wondering. Call our office for an appointment to have your hearing evaluated by one of our Doctors of Audiology and soon, you’ll be hearing the sounds of life again.

Hear Clearly with Widex Clear

November 30, 2015

Widex is one of the most well-known hearing aid manufacturers in the US. In fact, they were the first company to offer digital hearing aids. Since then, there has been very little to set them apart from other manufacturers. Until now. Widex is one of only several manufacturers to offer wireless hearing aid technology. After a long wait, the Clear is now available to consumers and promises to be an industry leader.

The Clear features wireless communication between a pair of hearing aids being worn simultaneously, providing a richer, more realistic sound quality for its wearers. Most hearing aids take information in through the on-board microphone and then the sound is changed in the processor and returned to the ear canal. Each hearing aid acts alone. The changes one hearing aid makes to the sound may differ from the changes made by the hearing aid on the other ear, effectively giving the brain two different representations of the sounds in the environment. With the technology in the Widex Clear, the information coming in to the individual hearing aids is compared one to the other. Then the patented sound processing, noise reduction and feedback management systems work in tandem to improve the clarity of speech, resulting in an overall improvement in sound quality and a more realistic listening experience.

Along with communication between hearing aids, the new technology from Widex offers ear-level Bluetooth compatibility through its on-board wireless technology. With accessories that allow for direct communication with TV, audio equipment and cell phones, those wearing the Clear will experience high fidelity, echo-free stereo sound that is amplified specifically to meet the individual hearing needs of the wearer. Whether listening to conversation in a quiet environment or in a background of noise, on the TV or via cellphone, with new technology from Widex, everything becomes more Clear.

How the Zebrafish May Cure Hearing Loss

February 16, 2015

“I’m sorry, your hearing loss is permanent.” For thousands of Americans each year, hearing loss that requires help for better communication becomes a reality. In fact, nearly one out of every ten people has a hearing loss in the United States. The most common hearing loss is damage to the inner ear hair cells, or cilia, that reside in the cochlea. The damage, called sensorineural hearing loss, can be caused by many things, including excessive noise exposure, disease processes, exposure to medications and due to the “accumulation of birthdays.” In fact, the prevalence of hearing loss increases exponentially in each decade after the age of 60.

Why is sensorineural hearing loss permanent?
Once hair cells die, they cannot be replaced. They do not regrow or regenerate. These cells are the single most important part of the mechanical working part of the ear. When a sound enters the ear, it passes down the ear canal to the eardrum, where the vibrations from the sound are passed on to the three smallest bones in the body: the malleus, incus and stapes. Or, hammer, anvil and stirrup, as they are more commonly called. This chain of bones works like a piston system, increasing the intensity of the sound and sending it in to the inner part of the ear where the hair cells reside. The hair cells bend when the third bone in the system pushes in to the cochlea. This bending action creates an electrical signal in the hearing nerve, which then sends a signal to the brain to be processed as sound. If the hair cells are damaged, the information cannot be passed on to the hearing nerve. When someone has damaged or missing hair cells, the result will be permanent hearing loss.

What’s being done about it?
In recent years, a research team at the University of Washington’s Merrill Bloedel Research Center has been working on finding a way to resolve the problem of permanent hearing loss. The most recent research involves the zebrafish. The zebrafish has hair cells running along the sides of its body that help sense vibrations in the water. The vibrations are converted to electrical information that is then sent to the brain. Sound familiar? Unlike human hair cells, though, the hair cells of the zebrafish are able to regenerate when damaged. Researchers hope to find out how the zebrafish regenerates their hair cells and use this information to develop a way for humans to regenerate damaged or missing hair cells. If they can do so, the researchers would, in effect, have a cure for the majority of permanent hearing loss sufferers.

A cure is still a long way away. But the research is promising and the researchers are dedicated to finding the answer for permanent hearing loss. To find out more about the research being conducted at the University of Washington’s Merrill Bloedel Research Center, visit depts.washington.edu/hearing.

Is A Cochlear Implant Right For Me?

November 17, 2014

If you’ve come to the point where your hearing loss has become so profound that hearing aids are no longer helpful to you, a cochlear implant may be the next step in preserving your sense of sound. A cochlear implant isn’t by definition a hearing aid, which is meant to amplify sound according to your hearing loss. Instead, a cochlear implant is a small, surgically implanted device that works by delivering electrical impulses directly to the inner ear. The electrical impulses are then delivered to the brain to be processed as sound. A cochlear implant doesn’t restore hearing, but can give the implant wearer a chance at hearing sound again, when other options are no longer viable.

How does a cochlear implant work?
Cochlear implants are intended for those with profound sensorineural hearing loss who cannot or can no longer wear hearing aids. This type of hearing loss is caused by damage to the small cells in the inner part of the ear called the cochlea. These cells, called cilia, communicate with the auditory (hearing) nerve. When the cells have been destroyed or did not develop during gestation, there is no communication with the hearing nerve and therefore, no sound reaches the brain. A cochlear implant stimulates the hearing nerve directly, allowing the sound to bypass the damaged area of the ear and get to the brain.

A cochlear implant is a surgically implanted device that consists of both internal parts that are implanted under the skin just behind and above the ear and external parts that are worn behind the ear, just like the typical behind the ear hearing aid would be worn.

When there are sounds in your environment, the microphone and processor will pick them up and change them into an electrical signal. Then the transmitter sends the signal to the receiver under the skin. Next, the receiver sends the signals on to the electrodes that are inserted into the cochlea. These electrodes stimulate the hearing nerve, which carries the signals to the brain, where they are recognized as sound.

How do you get a cochlear implant?
Once an ear, nose and throat physician and his cochlear implant team determines that you are a good candidate for an implant, a date will be set for the surgery. The surgery takes one to two hours to perform and is generally an outpatient procedure.

One to two weeks after surgery, you will be fitted with three external parts: a microphone, a speech processor, and a transmitter. The microphone is housed in a case that looks very similar to a behind the ear hearing aid and is worn on the ear. The audio processor may be housed along with the microphone or it may be worn elsewhere on the body. The audio processor offers multiple program options, telephone connection options, and the ability to connect to assistive listening devices and other listening devices, like MP3 players.

How do I know if a cochlear implant is right for me?
If you think you might be a candidate for a cochlear implant, talk to your audiologist. He or she can tell you whether a cochlear implant is a good option for you and advise you of the positives and negatives of a cochlear implant. If your audiologist does not work with cochlear implants directly, you will be referred to a center that does where you will consult with a team of experts. Typically, these experts include an ear doctor (otolaryngologist), audiologist, psychologist and speech-language pathologist. The team works together to evaluate you, answer your questions, perform the surgery and offer follow-up care.

You may undergo certain tests, such as:

• an audiogram to determine the extent of your hearing loss as well as where the hearing loss stems from
• a hearing aid evaluation
• CT or MRI scans of the middle and inner ear structures
• a physical exam to prepare for general anesthesia
• a psychological exam to assess your expectations and ability to handle the surgery and commitment necessary for the programming and follow-up needed with a cochlear implant

Many times those with profound hearing loss feel like they have no hope for better hearing. In many instances, though, a cochlear implant is an excellent next step. If you are curious about cochlear implants and wonder if you might be a candidate, call our office. We’d be glad to discuss the possibility with you.