The Importance of Binaural Hearing and Understanding Different Types of Hearing Loss
As humans, our ability to communicate and connect with others is crucial to our social and mental well-being. Hearing plays a significant role in this process, and even mild hearing loss can have a profound impact on our ability to interact with others effectively. In this article, we will discuss the importance of binaural hearing and the different types of hearing loss, their causes, and possible treatments.
Why Binaural Hearing is Important
Binaural hearing refers to the brain’s ability to integrate information from both ears simultaneously, which helps us understand where sounds come from in relation to our body’s position. It also enhances overall communication and speech comprehension, particularly in noisy or complex environments. Studies have shown that individuals with unilateral hearing loss, or hearing loss in only one ear, have difficulty localizing sounds and understanding speech in noisy environments.
The 3 Types of Hearing Loss
There are three main types of hearing loss: Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SHL), Conductive Hearing Loss, and Mixed Hearing Loss.
Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SHL)
SHL is the most common type of hearing loss and is typically caused by damage to the hair cells in the inner-ear organ (the cochlea) responsible for detecting sound. Repeated exposure to loud noise can cause permanent high-frequency hearing loss, as the hair cells responsible for detecting high-frequency sounds are usually the first to be damaged.
Conductive Hearing Loss
This type of hearing loss is typically caused by an infection or blockage in the outer or middle ear. Otitis media, a middle-ear infection, can cause difficulty hearing due to a fluid buildup, while swimmer’s ear or earwax buildup can create a blockage outside the eardrum. Conductive hearing loss is often reversible once the underlying cause is treated or surgery is performed.
Mixed Hearing Loss
Individuals with mixed hearing loss typically suffer from some combination of SHL and a semipermanent conductive hearing loss. This type of hearing loss can improve with treatment or surgery for the conductive portion, but the SHL is usually permanent.
Other Forms of Hearing Loss
Unilateral Hearing Loss
Hearing loss that occurs in only one ear is referred to as unilateral hearing loss. It can be present at birth, happen spontaneously, or occur over several days (sudden hearing loss). Unilateral hearing loss can delay or otherwise affect speech and language development, and children may have difficulty localizing sounds, hearing speech in noisy situations, and hearing from longer distances.
Sudden Hearing Loss
A sudden loss in hearing, either entirely or partially, within a 24-hour period, is referred to as sudden hearing loss. Treatment may include steroids to support the recovery of hearing, but patients who see no change within two weeks are unlikely to see improvement. Those who suffer from sudden hearing loss should consult their physician immediately, as faster treatment greatly increases chances of a full recovery.
High-Frequency Hearing Loss
High-frequency hearing loss is often difficult to diagnose, as it occurs slowly over several decades. Early signs are an inability to hear higher-octave sounds, like a bird chirping or the voice of a woman or small child. Using hearing protection prior to being exposed to loud noises will help prevent high-frequency hearing loss, while hearing aids are an effective treatment.
Contact Professional Hearing Management for Hearing Loss Support
Healthy hearing is critical to our ability to communicate effectively and connect with others. Binaural hearing, the brain’s ability to integrate information from both ears, is essential for speech comprehension in noisy environments. Understanding the different types of hearing loss, their causes, and possible treatments can help individuals seek the appropriate treatment and improve their overall quality of life.
To learn more about the audiology services we offer at Professional Hearing Management, contact us today. Our hearing center is located in Valparaiso, IN, and serves the local community.