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Treating Hearing Loss in Southwest Florida

The ear is a complicated system made up of three parts, the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. All three parts work together to transmit important auditory information to the brain, resulting in the ability to hear. Damage to any one part of the ear can hinder this ability or cause permanent hearing loss. At Florida Gulf Coast Hearing Center, we have a team of professionals to treat issues in all parts of the ear. We can accurately diagnose the cause of your hearing loss and determine which hearing aid can help you recover some of your ability to hear. Contact us today and let us help you find a solution to your hearing loss at our Naples and Estero, FL locations.

Diagram of An Ear in Naples and Estero, FL

The Three Parts of the Ear and How They Work

The ear is made up of three distinct parts. Sound is transmitted through each section as it makes its way to the brain. These parts also work together to help maintain balance. Sound travels through each section in the following manner:

The Outer Ear

The outer ear consists of the flexible, fleshy part, called the pinna, as well as the ear canal. The pinna collects sound from the surrounding environment and funnels it through the ear canal to the eardrum, which is located at the of the canal. The eardrum separates the outer ear from the middle ear.

The Middle Ear

The middle ear lies behind the eardrum, inside the skull. It contains three bones important to hearing called the malleus, the incus, and the stapes. As the sound waves reach the eardrum, they cause it to vibrate. These vibrations are then transmitted from the eardrum to the inner ear through the malleus, incus, and stapes.

The Inner Ear

The stapes sits in the opening of the inner ear, and as it vibrates it produces waves in the fluid of the inner ear. The fluid of the inner ear is contained in a series of spaces located within the bone of the skull. These spaces are called the cochlea and the semicircular canals and contain sensitive neurosensory tissues and nerve endings. The waves created by the vibrating stapes fills the cochlea, pushing against the sensory membranes. The movement of the fluid causes sensory cells to transmit electrical impulses to nerve fibers. These electrical impulses are then sent to the brain where they are interpreted as sound.

Types of Hearing Loss

  • Conductive Hearing Loss – happens when sounds cannot get through the outer and middle ear. It may be hard to hear soft sounds. Louder sounds may be muffled. Medicine or surgery can often fix this type of hearing loss.
  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss – or SNHL, happens after inner ear damage. Problems with the nerve pathways from your inner ear to your brain can also cause SNHL. Soft sounds may be hard to hear. Even louder sounds may be unclear or may sound muffled. This is the most common type of permanent hearing loss. Most of the time, medicine or surgery cannot fix SNHL. Hearing aids may help you hear.
  • Mixed Hearing Loss – Sometimes, a conductive hearing loss happens at the same time as a sensorineural hearing loss. This means that there may be damage in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear or nerve pathway to the brain.

Hearing Loss Facts

  • 48 million Americans have a significant hearing loss
  • 1 out of 3 people over age 65 have some degree of hearing loss
  • 2 out of 3 people over 75 have a hearing loss
  • 15% of children between the ages of 6-19 have a measurable hearing loss in at least one ear
  • A mild hearing loss can cause a child to miss as much as 50% of classroom discussion
  • People with hearing loss wait an average of 7 years before seeking help
  • 15 million people in the United States with hearing loss avoid seeking help
  • Only 16% of physicians routinely screen for hearing loss

What Happens If Untreated

Balance & Falling

Uncorrected hearing loss puts you at 3 times the risk of falling when compared to people with normal hearing. Hearing loss affects our inner-ear and equilibrium causing more limited awareness of our surroundings, making tripping or falling more likely to occur.

This is believed to be caused by a cognitive overload. As your hearing loss worsens, your brain must work harder to hear and understand its surroundings thus taking your focus away from other tasks such as mobility.

Fatigue & Tiredness

Straining to hear is exhausting. For people with hearing loss, daily weariness is increased from the added work that comes with deciphering conversation. Even moderate hearing loss can affect up to 50% of what a person hears. This leaves you to fill in the gaps through lip reading and guessing.

If simple conversation requires you to essentially solve a puzzle, you’ll be expending far more energy than those with normal hearing.

Heart Health

The connection between hearing and your heart is due to the inner ear’s sensitivity to blood flow. If blood supplied to the inner ear is blocked or slowed, delicate structures of your auditory system are put at risk of being damaged by a lack of oxygen and nutrients.

This means that a healthy heart is directly tied to healthy ears. People with a history of heart disease are 50% more likely to be suffering from hearing loss, making hearing loss a predictor of developing heart problems.

Dementia & Mental Decline

Recent studies by Johns Hopkins researchers discovered that older adults suffering from hearing loss were 30% to 40% more likely to experience a recession in cognitive function than those with normal hearing.

It is thought that regular conversation and the exchange of ideas or information helps to keep our minds “mentally fit”. When we begin to lose our ability to hear properly, our minds become less active, and cognitive function decreases.

Depression & Social Isolation

It is well understood that people are social creatures. Hearing is a basic part of nearly all of our social interactions. The ability to confide in our loved ones or to carry out a cordial conversation with friends is vital to our general well-being.

When we start to lose our ability to hear, we will likely begin avoiding social situations altogether. Either out of embarrassment or otherwise, evasion of public places or challenging conversations can lead to social isolation. In turn, social isolation has been linked to an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and paranoia.

Family Relationships

Untreated hearing loss can put a high level of strain on our relationships. It is understood that hearing loss limits a person’s quality of life through isolation and a reduction in social activities, causing depression and anxiety. But it also harms our relationships with loved ones.

As communication gaps widen, family members experience feelings of frustration and sadness. When the conversation becomes a burden, our quality of life decreases, and relationship dissatisfaction increases.

The Causes of Hearing Loss

Hearing loss can be caused by any number of factors. It may be something as simple as wax or a foreign body blocking the ear canal. Or it may be more complicated such as a hole in the eardrum, exposure to repeated noises, or the result of a viral infection. No matter the cause, the team at Florida Gulf Coast Hearing Center is able to diagnose and treat your hearing loss at our Naples and Estero, FL locations. Contact us today to make an appointment.

Hear Better, Live Better