For those of you who are regular readers of this column, you are likely aware of the importance of vision, some of the conditions which can affect your vision, and some of the things that an Optometrist can do to improve your vision. As an Audiologist, I want to let you know more about another one of your senses that is just as important – your hearing.
Sound is collected by the pinna (our outer ear), funnelled through the ear canal to the eardrum. The eardrum vibrates and sets in motion the three middle ear bones (malleus, incus and stapes) which are the three smallest bones in our body. Vibrations are passed to the cochlea (our inner ear) where there are tiny hairs (outer and inner hair cells) that move with the vibrations, releasing a neurotransmitter causing our auditory nerve to fire. These neural impulses travel up through the auditory brainstem (where input from both sides of the head are collected and processed) and then to the auditory cortex where perception of sound occurs.
When the auditory system is working well, we can access a full range of sounds and those sounds connect us to our environment, help us to communicate, and allow us to enjoy a high quality of life. Speech and music are two of the most important types of sounds. But there are all sorts of other important sounds – the sound of a car coming down the road, the chirping of birds, the rustling of a tree in the wind….
Often, hearing loss occurs gradually over a number of years. Many people cope with hearing loss by adapting their lifestyle and their communication habits. Research shows that when hearing loss is treated in the adult population, it can improve relationships with family members, improve one’s self image and mental health, and provide a greater sense of independence and security. Good hearing is especially important in children as it is vital to the normal acquisition of speech and language and is very important in academic and social development.
Hearing loss can arise due to a breakdown in any part of the auditory system. Sometimes, especially if the damage occurs in the outer or middle ears, hearing loss can be medically corrected. Sometimes, hearing aids can significantly help. And sometimes all that is needed is an awareness of how well we hear, what may be causing the beginnings of a problem and knowledge of strategies to minimize any future hearing loss.
Audiologists hold Master’s or Doctoral degrees from accredited universities with special training in the prevention, identification, assessment and non-medical treatment of hearing disorders. Audiologists use an in-depth knowledge of the auditory system to integrate the latest developments in hearing research with the latest developments in technology in order to find optimal solutions for each individual.
Terence Miranda, Doctor of Audiology, has practiced Audiology for 9 years within the public health system and has opened Resonance Hearing Clinic in the Valley View Center beside South Cowichan Eyecare.