Woman with protective headphones on

Hearing as a bridge to the environment

You probably know that your hearing is one of your five senses. Therefore, a functioning hearing means an immense quality of life for you. Not only do you communicate through your hearing, it also helps you find your way around.

For you, hearing is like a bridge to your environment. What happens to you when your hearing stops working? Do you know that hearing impairment is one of the six most common diseases around the world? This restricts your life very much. Perhaps you are wondering where the boundaries are drawn to hearing loss and when is it even diagnosed?

What does hearing loss mean?

Another term for hearing loss is Hyperacusis. This means that your hearing is impaired. Your hearing function can be subjectively restricted or slightly to completely impaired, including deafness. The impairment can be either temporary or permanent.

When you are affected by it, you don't automatically perceive your surroundings just as being quieter. With real hearing loss, the hair cells are also damaged. The impressions are no longer correctly passed on to the brain by electrical signals. Once the hair cells are damaged, it cannot be repaired. It is not reversible. The result is that you can no longer perceive and hear the high frequencies and sometimes the low frequencies particularly well. You can hardly distinguish the entire language as well as tones and noises. You then have the feeling that others are speaking slurred. When there is noise, you will find it harder to hear. 

Reasons for hearing loss 

The process of listening is extremely complex. Normally, the sound waves hit the external ear canal. They are passed on through the eardrum. This is set in vibration by the sound waves and thereby the ossicles are moved. The signal is passed on to the inner ear. There, the hair cells convert the sound waves into electrical signals. These electrical signals reach the brain directly via the auditory nerve.

Your hair cells in the inner ear are among the secondary sensory cells in your nervous system. The function of the hair cells is to convert the sound waves and mechanical stimuli into nerve activity. 

But if there is a disturbance, you can no longer hear properly. The triggers for hearing loss can vary widely. It is a false assumption that hearing loss can only occur in the elderly. Worldwide, a total of 1.1 billion younger people aged 12-35 are affected.

Increasingly young people have to lose their hearing. Very often tinnitus is associated with the damage to the hair cells. Various environmental influences and stress are the main factors.

On average, almost every sixth person is affected by hearing loss. The increasing noise is another major cause of hearing loss. Other possible reasons include. 

  • Medication
  • Infections
  • congenital malformations

Different forms of hearing loss

There are two types of hearing loss:

  • Conductive hearing loss
  • Sensorineural hearing loss

In the Sensorineural hearing loss the inner ear is disturbed. That means it is no longer working properly. The sound signals are received correctly and perfectly by the outer ear, but then they can no longer be passed on to the brain and processed by the inner ear. A different hearing impression is created. You then perceive the environment as quasi dull.

The reasons for sensorineural hearing loss can be, for example, a high level of noise pollution or sudden hearing loss. So far, increasing age has mostly been associated with hearing loss. However, the causes cannot necessarily be traced back to a specific age group.

The conversion and transmission of electrical signals works with the Conductive hearing loss in the inner ear. The problem here lies in the transmission on the way to the cochlea. Your hearing impression does not change, but you perceive tones and noises to be quieter. In particular, the high frequency ranges can no longer be processed correctly. These include, for example, women's voices, children's voices or the ringing of your mobile phone. It may even be that, as the person affected, you can no longer perceive these sounds

Possible harmless causes

For example, if the ear canal is blocked by a plug, it is a harmless cause of your hearing loss. A defective eardrum or otitis media can also be the reason for conductive hearing loss.

Sometimes both types of hearing loss mentioned above are present at the same time. In this case we are talking about one combined hearing loss.

When will I be considered hard of hearing?

 Almost everyone is either affected by hearing loss themselves or their relatives or friends are. This topic requires a high level of sensitivity. Hearing loss has a direct impact on your quality of life. Therefore it is first and foremost important that you understand your situation in order to be able to deal with and live with the hearing loss.

 Various stages of hearing loss

There are basically two sizes:

 Volume and pitch

The unit of measure for the volume of sounds is specified in decibels. Here it is evaluated when a noise is perceived as unpleasant and too loud. In humans this value is between 80 and 85 dB.

The pitch is given in Hertz. If a person has healthy hearing, he can hear in a range between 20 and 20,000 Hz. For example, the human speech range is between 500 and 6,000 Hz.

Through these two units, the Hearing threshold determine in a person. This is done as part of a hearing test. At the end there are two curves for the hearing threshold, which can be represented graphically. One curve is for sound conduction, the other for the inner ear.

As long as there is no deviation greater than 20 dB, you will hear normally. However, if the deviation is more than 20 dB, you have a slight hearing loss.

 If you can only hear from a sound intensity of 40 dB, you have moderate hearing loss.

Usually the limit to severe hearing loss is 60 dB. You will then no longer be able to speak at normal volume. This particularly restricts your communication in everyday life.

If your hearing loss is even in the 80 dB range, your hearing loss is verging on deafness. Then you can no longer hear very loud noises and are practically deaf.

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