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Good hearing, good life

Laughter, jokes, juicy gossip about last night—our ears do so much for our happiness and well-being. Understanding how our hearing works and what we can do to protect our hearing health means less time worrying about missing out and more time focusing on what matters most.

Wearing hearing aids when you are out with a best friend
Hearing health basics

How does hearing work?

Our ears are quite the engineering feat and the way we hear is nothing short of amazing. To better understand how our hearing actually works, it can help to take a quick peek inside.

Let’s start at the ear canal, a pathway that leads sound waves from the outer to the inner ear. The waves travel down this tunnel until they hit what looks like a dead end known as the eardrum. That drum is actually a membrane—a cushion connecting to three small bones that do a little dance when activated by sound waves.

These bones are connected to a snail shape no bigger than the size of a pea. The snail is full of fluid and tiny hair cell bundles. Here, sound is translated into high and low frequencies. After sliding down the auditory nerve, these frequencies make their way to the brain, which interprets them as sounds we can hear and comprehend.

The hearing experience may still be enshrouded in mystery and, while we’ve simplified it quite a bit, that’s the gist of the sound wave journey. If you want to get your bones dancing, you can screen your hearing for free in less than 5 minutes with our online hearing test.
Online hearing test
Preventing hearing loss

Protecting your hearing health

Hearing is a beautiful thing. Not only is it essential for how we connect with the world around us, it plays a major role in our mental health, too. After all, it feeds our brains with glorious stimulation. So, what can you keep in mind when it comes to taking care of yourself and, ultimately, your hearing health?

  • Earbud use
    If you want to do your ears a favor, reduce the amount of time you use earbuds to an hour a day, and make sure to turn down the volume. Exposure of more than 1 minute to a sound over 100 dB can cause permanent damage.
  • Your cardiovascular health
    Proper blood flow is essential for healthy ears. Proper circulation means your ears are being fed with the oxygen they need to function well. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help keep your body running like a well-oiled machine, including your ears.
  • The impact of bad habits
    Smoking and excessive drinking can both take a toll on your hearing health. These habits can slow the flow of oxygen to your ears and, like we mentioned above, this is essential for them to function properly.
  • Hearing protection
    Those hair cells found in the inner ear may be small, but they are mighty. Wearing hearing protection in noisy environments can help protect the integrity of those hair cells and prevent noise-induced hearing loss and damage to your hearing health.
Living with hearing loss

Five tips for better hearing

  • 1
    Ask people to slow down
    There’s no harm in asking the person you’re talking with to speak more clearly and slowly. A slower, more enunciated speech can make a big difference during a conversation.
  • 4
    Ensure good lighting
    You’d be surprised at the difference proper lighting can make. When you’re out and about, make sure to sit somewhere with good lighting. This will help you avoid shadows and give you a better chance at reading lips and seeing facial expressions.
  • 2
    Face the person you're talking to
    Face to face: when you talk to someone, turn your head so that your hearing is truly in-stereo. It’s also easier to hear if you can see their lips and facial expressions.
  • 5
    Use hearing aids
    Hearing aids are the best tool you have in the fight against heraing loss. With today’s innovative technology and extensive options, finding hearing aids that fit your needs is easier than ever.
  • 3
    Reduce stress and meditate
    A sound mind means sound ears. Your ears love and need the silence in the morning. Think of meditating as a massage for your brain (and ears). Think of it as loosening up all the gunk, the memories, the worries that act as roadblocks to getting a fresh start to the day.
Pinpointing sound

What’s directional hearing?

When a shout or noise comes from behind you, you may not realize it, but your head turns automatically to the source of the sound. This is called directional hearing.

Directional hearing is our own private GPS of sound. It happens when both ears work in harmony and is one of the many reasons why hearing aids come in pairs—one for each ear. Having a balance of sound and the ability to distinguish right from left, forward or behind, helps you stay aware of your surroundings and communicate more effectively.

Do you have trouble pinpointing sound?
Types of hearing loss

Hearing basics: FAQ

How do you hear?

Sound is vibration that travels through a medium, typically the air. When these vibrations reach the outer ear, this is the beginning of hearing. The ear has four main parts that sound must travel through for you to hear: the outer ear, the middle ear, the inner ear, and beyond the inner ear that includes the VIIIth nerve and the brain.

What natural remedies help for healthy hearing?

Homeopathic doctors will often prescribe Ginkgo biloba, Panax ginseng, and Astragalus propinquus, but there are many ideas out there, about vitamin B, magnesium, zinc, etc. Just remember that it can be dangerous to trust Dr Google.

Is it possible to improve your hearing?

You can “improve” your hearing by avoiding all future contact with loud noises, for one. Once your inner-ear hair cells have been destroyed, they don’t grow back. You can also have your ears checked and professionally cleaned from excess wax for an immediate quick fix.

Are studies being done to cure hearing loss?

There are big steps being made in that direction, yes, with research into regenerating those microscopic hair cells. But for the time being, technological advances in hearing aids are your best bet to restore your hearing.

Can hearing loss be cured? 

Most cases of hearing loss are permanent.
If you’re experiencing conductive hearing loss, usually caused by issues to the outer or middle ear blocking sound, your hearing can generally be restored with the proper treatment.
Sensorineural hearing loss results from damage to parts of the inner ear, often from loud noise exposure or aging, and is generally permanent. While this type of hearing loss cannot be cured, a hearing care professional can help you find the right hearing aids to address your specific needs and help restore some of your hearing.

Am I a candidate for hearing instruments?

Almost anyone who is experiencing difficulty with communication due to hearing loss is a candidate for hearing instruments. There are some types of hearing loss that can be medically treated without a need for amplification (hearing aids). However, that is typically the exception and not the rule. The good news is there are usually warning signs that there is a possible hearing loss.

Talk to an expert in one of our hearing centers.

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