Sound Waves and How Hearing Loss Affects Our Perception of Them

hearing instruments on top of an audiogram

Did you know that sound is a type of energy? It’s transmitted through the air like waves, and when those waves hit our ears, they are turned into electrical signals that our brain interprets. This is what allows us to hear things. Unfortunately, when we lose hearing, something has gone wrong with these electrical signals. In this blog post, we will discuss how sound works, how hearing loss affects our perception of sound, and a few treatments available for hearing loss.

How Sound Waves Work

Sound waves are created when something vibrates. This could be a person speaking, an animal making noise or even something like a guitar string being plucked. The vibration causes the air molecules around it to start moving, and these movements create sound waves. The sound waves travel through the air until they reach our ears.

The ear is made up of three main parts: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The outer ear is what we see on the side of our head – it’s made up of skin and cartilage, and its job is to funnel sound waves into the middle ear. The middle ear contains three tiny bones – the malleus, incus and stapes – which amplify sound waves and send them into the inner ear.

The inner ear is a snail-shaped structure that contains fluid-filled canals. These canals are lined with hair cells, which vibrate when they come in contact with sound waves. This vibration sends electrical signals to the brain, interpreting them as sound.

How Hearing Loss Affects Our Perception of Sound

There are two types of hearing loss:

  • Conductive hearing loss: Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a problem with the outer or middle ear, preventing sound waves from reaching the inner ear.
  • Sensorineural hearing loss: Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the hair cells in the inner ear or to the auditory nerve. This type of hearing loss is usually permanent.

People with hearing loss often have trouble hearing high-pitched sounds, like the sound of a child’s voice or the ring of a telephone. This is because hair cells are more sensitive to high-pitched sounds. When hair cells are damaged, they can no longer pick up these high frequencies.

Hearing loss can also make it difficult to understand speech, even if the person speaking is loud enough. This is because we rely on hearing different frequencies to distinguish sounds. When we lose the ability to hear specific frequencies, it becomes more difficult to tell these sounds apart.

There are many causes of hearing loss, including:

  • Exposure to loud noise: This could be from listening to music through headphones, working in a loud environment without hearing protection or attending concerts without earplugs.
  • Certain medications: Some antibiotics, cancer treatments and diuretics can cause hearing loss.
  • Age: Hearing loss is very common in older adults. This is because the hair cells in the inner ear slowly break down over time.
  • Genetics: Hearing loss can be passed down from parents to their children.
  • Head injuries: A blow to the head can damage the ear and cause hearing loss.

Treatment for Hearing Loss

If you think you might be experiencing hearing loss, the first step is to see an audiologist. Audiologists are trained to diagnose and treat hearing disorders. They will conduct a hearing test to help them determine the type and severity of your hearing loss. Based on the results of this test, they may recommend hearing aids or other treatment options.

Hearing aids are small electronic devices that amplify sound and send it into the ear. Many types of hearing aids are available, so it’s essential to work with an audiologist to find the right one for you. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat hearing loss. However, this is typically only an option for people with conductive hearing loss. Sensorineural hearing loss can be treated with hearing aids but cannot be cured.

Hearing loss is a common problem that can significantly impact your life. If you think you might be experiencing hearing loss, the first step is to see an audiologist. However, with the proper treatment, hearing loss does not have to hold you back from enjoying your life to the fullest.

If you’re worried about hearing loss, don’t hesitate to contact an audiologist for help. Audiologists are trained professionals who can help you identify and treat hearing disorders. So don’t let hearing loss keep you from living your best life! Schedule an appointment with an audiologist today. Call us at (661) 250-6781 today for more information.