Serving Greater Vancouver & the Fraser Valley

Hearing loss

by Lilianne Fuller


Psalm 139 tells us that our bodies are ‘fearfully and wonderfully’ made and you need not look any further than our ears to see the truth of that statement. Our ears are a combination of mechanics and electrical impulses that allow us to hear the faintest of whispers or the roar of thunder.

How we hear is truly amazing. Sound is transmitted via soundwaves entering the ear canal through the eardrum. These soundwaves cause the eardrum to vibrate which sets three small bones called the Hammer, Anvil and Stirrup in motion. This motion causes the fluid in the middle ear or Cochlea to move, making the hair cells in the Cochlea bend. This changes the sound waves into electrical impulses which are transmitted via the Auditory Nerve to the Auditory Cortex in the brain where these impulses are interpreted as sound.
Our sense of hearing is essential for daily living. Being able to hear keeps us connected with the outside world and helps avoid isolation. Studies have shown that isolation can be as deadly and detrimental to health as smoking a pack of cigarettes every day. It has been found that people who experience hearing loss tend to isolate themselves and give up many of the activities they formerly enjoyed. As well, scientific studies have linked hearing loss with dementia. According to the Alzheimer’s Society, there is a clinical link between hearing loss and the progression of the disease.

Hearing is something we take for granted until we cannot. Troy Demmitt concluded that his hearing was an issue when he noticed that he was having more difficulty hearing conversations conducted at a normal volume. Trying to hear was exhausting and at dinner parties or other social events, all he heard was white noise. He decided that a hearing aid was something he needed so he began the search for one that would help his hearing loss.

There are three types of hearing loss. Conductive, Sensorineural, and Mixed. Conductive hearing loss is caused by a problem with the middle and outer ear and could be caused by wax build up in the ear canal or a ruptured eardrum. Sensorineural hearing loss is caused when there is damage to the tiny hair-like cells in the inner ear or to the auditory nerve. This causes the nerve signals to be blocked, impacting the loudness and clarity of sound. Sensorineural hearing loss can develop over time due to long term exposure to loud sounds. As well, this type of hearing loss can occur instantaneously from a short blast of noise like a gunshot or an explosion. Viral infections and even some types of medication can also cause this type of hearing loss. In addition, Tinnitus or a ringing in the ear can contribute to diminished hearing as well.

There are preventative measures to take so that hearing loss doesn’t have to occur or be as severe. Hearing specialists or Audiologists recommend protecting the ears from excessively loud sounds. For example, if you work in a noisy environment, use ear protection and avoid listening to music at high decibel levels, especially if using ear buds. “If in any environment or social engagement, if you need to raise your voice to have a conversation, this means that the background noise is loud enough to be hazardous to our hearing,” explained Kim Galick a Registered Hearing Instrument Practitioner and Owner/Operator of Ears Hearing Clinics. “In a circumstance like that, the use of custom ear protection or earmuffs is highly recommended at all times,” she added.

Hearing aids have come a long way from the first ones many years ago. “The use of ear trumpets for the partially deaf, date back to the 17th century,” said Galick, At first, an ear Trumpet was used to amplify the sounds of conversation and in 1895, the movement toward the modern hearing aid began with the invention of the telephone. Today, most hearing aids are digital and as technology advances, so will hearing aids. “We do keep hearing of Artificial Intelligence Hearing Aids,” said Galick.

As the population ages, there are a multitude of Hearing Clinics springing up. If your doctor has advised you to get a hearing aid, it’s important to find the right Hearing Instrument Practitioner to help you. Galick offers some advice when deciding on a Hearing Clinic. “Did the professional take the time to listen to your concerns? Did you feel rushed during the appointment? Did they explain things to you in a way you could understand? In other words, no jargon,” she said.

It’s hard to imagine a soundless world and the ability to hear promotes a healthy and happy life. For Troy Demmit getting a hearing aid was a blessing. “Listening to music is a joy again. When I left the clinic, I had a ‘moment’. I stopped in amazement, two airplanes were a speck in the distance, and I could hear them,” he smiled.

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