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California Ear Institute
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How We Hear

Hearing is one of our five senses (touch, smell, taste, sight, and hearing). A reduction in hearing ability is called a hearing loss or hearing impairment. There are approximately 500 million people world wide with some form of hearing loss. It is estimated that this phenomenon is supposed to grow to 700 million by the year 2015. Increasing amounts of noise in today’s environment seems to be the main factor in this skyrocketing number. Due to the fact that noise, not age is the primary contributing factor in hearing loss, it is not surprising that 50% of all hearing loss takes place in people under the age of 65 years old.

Hearing loss is a common occurrence. The sounds around us are perceived by our hearing system 24 hours a day. Hearing is not a sense that you can ‘turn off’. Our hearing works at several levels: With our hearing we perceive background sounds, such as traffic noise, or more relevant sounds, such as the ringing of an alarm clock. What is generally most important is, however, the ability to hear speech- to communicate. Our hearing system must be able to distinguish among a multitude of sounds – from the soft rustle of leaves to complex sentences. When our hearing ability is reduced, we are no longer able to hear sounds optimally.

 

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Common Causes of Hearing Impairment in Children
Common Causes of Hearing Impairment in Seniors
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There are three main categories of hearing loss, conductive, sensorineural, and central. Conductive hearing loss is sometimes temporary and can occasionally be addressed by surgery. Conductive hearing loss occurs when the sound is blocked from getting to the inner ear. This blockage can be due to wax, fluid, cyst, or a congenital bone deformity. Sensorineural hearing loss occus when the auditory nerve or the cochlea itself is damaged. Central hearing loss occurs when a patient has relatively normal audiograms but poor speech recognition, meaning the issue with understanding speech is occuring past the auditory nerve somewhere in the brain.

 

 

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California Ear Institute