How Do We Hear?

Ear Diagram

Although many people take them for granted, our ears are constantly functioning through a series of intricate processes. First, sound waves enter the ear canal and cause the eardrum to vibrate. This vibration is transmitted through the middle ear through a series of tiny bones, before arriving at the fluid-filled cochlea. The movement of this fluid is converted by the auditory nerve and finally interpreted by our brains as sound.

How Does Hearing Loss Occur

Our ears are extremely complex structures and are more easily damaged than people often think. Causes of hearing loss can range from loud noises, head trauma and certain diseases to genetic factors and the natural ageing process.


What Can I Do About Hearing Loss?

In general, your hearing outcomes will depend on the type of hearing loss you have sustained. Types of hearing loss include sensorineural hearing loss (which results from damage to the cochlea or associated nerves), conductive hearing loss (which results from the faulty transmission of sound waves), and sudden hearing loss (which often remains unexplained).

If you think you might be suffering from hearing loss, it's important to seek advice from a qualified medical professional. NHC clinicians will be able to assess your level of hearing and, if necessary, suggest an appropriate solution for your hearing loss.

​Signs of Hearing Loss

Hearing, just like the other four senses, plays an important role in our quality of life. So if we have lived a life full of hearing and it slowly fades away, it can have a major impact on our day-to-day life.

We recommend a free hearing check if you notice at least two of any of the signs below.

Social Signs

  • Do people think you turn the volume of your TV or music up too high?
  • Do you have more trouble hearing children and women rather than men?
  • Do you find it hard to hear in noisy environments like cafes or restaurants?
  • Do you find it hard to follow conversations in group situations?
  • Do you find yourself asking people to repeat themselves more often these days?
  • Do you find yourself avoiding social situations because of your hearing?
  • Do you often think people are mumbling when they talk to you?

Emotional Signs

  • Do you find yourself avoiding social situations because you find it hard to hear what people say?
  • Do you get annoyed that people are mumbling when they talk to you?
  • Do you get stressed from straining to hear and understand what others are saying?
  • Do you get nervous meeting new people because you fear that you won't know what they are saying?
  • Do you prefer to avoid people when you can't hear what they say in loud places like restaurants?

Medical Signs

  • Do you have a family history of hearing loss?
  • Do you have a history of exposure to loud noise?
  • Do you have a medical condition like diabetes, heart, circulation or thyroid problems?
  • Do you have a constant ringing in your ears?
  • Do you take medication that can harm your hearing? (ototoxic drugs).

Types of Hearing Loss

Conductive Hearing Loss

When people experience only a drop in volume of their hearing, it may be because of a conductive hearing loss. This is due to a disruption to the transmission – or conductivity – of sound through the middle or outer ear.

For children, this is often a temporary condition that may be corrected by medical treatment or surgery. For adults, further tests should be conducted to determine the best course of treatment.

Sensorineural Hearing Loss

This is the most common type of hearing loss. Unfortunately it is permanent. Sensorineural hearing loss (otherwise known as nerve deafness) results in a weaker sound signal to the brain when the hair cells lining the cochlea are damaged. This can also reduce the clarity of sound and is often why people say they can only hear others mumbling. Early intervention may minimize the impact of nerve deafness.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Some people may be affected by both types of hearing loss, so it's best to have your hearing assessed by an expert, regularly.

Hearing Loss Prevention

Your hearing is a precious resource, one you need to actively protect. Did you know that up to one-third of hearing loss is preventable with proper hearing protection and by taking a few simple precautions? Here are some easy things to keep in mind to help minimise your risk of hearing loss:

Wear hearing protection

Wear hearing protection like earmuff and earplugs if you are in a loud commercial, industrial, or recreational environment. Avoid loud rock concerts—or at least wear earplugs if you do attend.

Get Regular Hearing Tests

We recommend a free hearing check if you notice at least two social, emotional and/or medical signs. We also recommend an annual free hearing check if you are aged 50+, you work in a noisy environment, or you have a hearing aid but don't use it.

Medication, Alcohol and Smoking

Be mindful that some medications, alcohol and smoking can increase your risk of hearing loss. Try to avoid or minimise consumption to lower your risk. Talk to your GP to find out if the medication you are currently taking can affect your hearing.

Some hearing problems can be treated and cured if they're caught early. So what are you waiting for? Book a free hearing test today with National Hearing Care, to get the hearing you deserve.

​Benefits of Early Treatment

More and more people are recognising the value of treating even mild hearing loss. Yet people still wait an average of seven years to seek treatment.

(Listen Hear! The economic impact and cost of hearing loss in Australia, 2006)

So why get tested and treated if you're still able to get by? Here are some reasons:

  • Regular device use is directly attributable to:
    • Enhanced communiction abilities*
    • Higher levels of self esteem*
    • Improved personal safety*
    • Improved quality of life*
    • Better psychological health* (*Kochkin 2000,2005,2011). 
  • Hearing aids today are so advanced they make it possible for most
    people to hear in very crowded, noisy situations.
  • Early intervention "trains" your ears when they are most able,
    setting you up for more effective treatment and better hearing.
  • A hearing check with National Hearing Care is free.

Not sure if you're hearing less than you used to? Book a free hearing test today.