Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a progressive condition that affects people of all ages. It may be caused by a variety of factors including noise exposure, age, and disease. Symptoms develop gradually, leaving many hearing impaired individuals unaware of their condition until a family member mentions it. Most types of hearing loss are incurable, but treatment with hearing aids or other assistive listening devices allows many patients to communicate effectively and improves their quality of life.


The ear is a surprisingly complex organ responsible for collecting and processing sounds as well as transmitting them to the brain for interpretation. Understanding how you hear is the key to understanding, and ultimately treating, hearing loss.


Structure of the Ear

The ear has three parts: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear.
Each plays an important role in hearing.

The outer ear is the external portion visible to others, and it is responsible for collecting sound waves and funneling them into the ear canal. The bowl-shaped portion of the outer ear, also known as the auricle or pinna, and the ear canal comprise the part known as the outer ear.

The middle ear begins at the eardrum (tympanic membrane). When the eardrum vibrates, it stimulates movement of the ossicles, a trio of tiny bones located in the space behind the eardrum. Sound, transformed into a vibration in the middle ear, travels down these three tiny bones to the inner ear.

The inner ear contains the cochlea, a fluid-filled structure that is vital to hearing. Once sound vibrations are transmitted to the cochlea, its fluid begins to flow, causing movement in the tiny hair cells on its surface. This movement is converted to electrical impulses that travel up to the brain via the auditory nerve. There, they are interpreted as sound, and the hearing process is complete.

Symptoms of Hearing Loss

Because the symptoms of hearing loss occur gradually, many people are unaware of their condition. This helps to explain why it takes seven years, on average, from the onset of symptoms to when a person goes in for treatment.

The following signs might indicate the presence of hearing loss.

  • The need to ask others to repeat themselves when speaking

  • The feeling that others mumble or fail to speak clearly

  • Difficulty following conversations, especially over background noise

  • Watching television or listening to music at a high volume

  • Purposely avoiding social gatherings with friends

The sooner you recognize symptoms and seek treatment, the better your chances for success.

Causes of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a common condition that affects people of all ages. With the popularity of personal electronic devices, hearing loss is becoming an increasing concern amongst younger populations. In fact, 1 in 5 high school–aged teens are now showing signs of mild hearing loss.

Hearing loss is caused by myriad factors including:

  • Noise exposure

  • Presbycusis (natural aging process)

  • Ear infections

  • Injury and trauma

  • Impacted earwax

  • Otosclerosis

  • Heart disease

  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)

  • Diabetes

  • Ménière’s disease

  • Acoustic neuroma

  • Ototoxic medication (200+ drugs are linked to hearing loss)

Hearing Loss Treatment

Hearing loss treatments vary depending on the type and severity a patient is experiencing, as well as the patient’s individual needs. 

Treating hearing loss requires more than just one simple fix. If you’re diagnosed with hearing loss, your doctor will explain your options and work with you to come up with an individualized treatment plan. In most cases, Hearing aids are by far the most common treatment for hearing loss because they are effective and require no serious or invasive procedure. In certain cases, your audiologist may discuss implant options with you. We offer a range of implants from top manufacturers at Indiana Ear.

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