All Ears: Selective Hearing?

Our bodies are amazing machines.  Consider how the sound of music, birds, and children’s laughter can travel through air, enter our ears, and be received by our brains for us to decide what is beautiful, or not.

Our outer ears catch sounds, which travel through our ear canal, reaching our eardrum, then vibrates and starts a magnificent chain reaction.  The eardrum is connected to three tiny bones, the smallest bones of our body: the anvil, stirrup, and hammer.  As the first bone moves, it causes the next bone to move, etc. This movement vibrates against the oval window in our cochlea, sending sound waves through this snail-shaped organ.

Inside the cochlea are thousands of microscopic hair cells called Stereocilia, and these hair cells sense the motion of sound waves. When the hair cells move, they send an electrical impulse through the Eighth Nerve of your brain, and finally your brain recognizes sound.

About 90% of hearing loss is due to damage to those microscopic hair cells.  This condition is known as Sensorineural hearing loss and this has a major impact on understanding speech.

The hair cells that recognize the higher voices of women and children are nearest to the outer ear.  Therefor, they are the cells that often are damaged first. So, it is more likely damage to the Sterocilia than “selective” hearing.

Hearing technology today are microprocessor chips that analyzes and clarifies sounds and speech. A good specialist can fine tune the frequencies until fricative sounds (soft sounds), like F, S, and Th can be restored.  For some, this may take time for our brain to rehabilitate or refresh itself to compute these consonants they may not have heard for years. Waiting too long can actually cause cognitive decline.

The technology today allows the Specialist to zero in on amplifying only the frequencies one needs help with.  Lesser quality aids usually amplify huge ranges of frequencies, which can cause discomfort, confusion and even more damage.

Don’t be fooled by aids being advertised for unbelievably low prices.  You want the most current technology. Get referrals from people you trust. Look to see if they are invested and committed to your local community. The “Big Six” manufacturers have been around for fifty years or more.  Their research and development are state-of-the-art. Stop by and visit the clinic and meet the staff prior to making an appointment. There is so much more than just price when it comes to your health and quality of life.

You want a professional you can trust, will listen to you, and work with you for the best fit. Wherever you fall on the spectrum, hearing aids can help enhance your quality of life dramatically, bringing you back in touch with the people and activities you enjoy.