You can’t see or touch sound, but it’s all around us in different frequencies, with pitches ranging from low to high and loudness levels from soft to loud.
Inside the ear there are several parts that work together to make it possible to hear sound.
- When sound enters your ear it meets the eardrum. Like a drumkit, the eardrum turns the sound into vibrations, which are picked up by three tiny bones nearby.
- The little bones work like drumsticks, amplifying the vibrations and sending them on to a shell-like structure in your inner ear (the ‘cochlea’).
- The vibrations swirl through the cochlea, touching sensory cells (miniscule strands) and making them tinkle like piano keys to create a kind of sound code or melody.
- A main nerve in the body, the auditory nerve, then decodes the details and transmits the final sound to your brain, so you can hear the sound as it’s meant to be. A voice. A bird. The ocean. Raindrops. A favourite riff in a song.
Hearing loss happens when some of these sensory cells (think piano keys) get damaged due prolonged exposure to loud sounds, or they lose their tune over time. When this happens, tones can’t flow like before and some sounds get lost along the way. You might start to notice that you are missing these sounds. This varies depending on the degree of hearing loss.
It’s proven that caring for your hearing has many health and happiness benefits:
- Better communication and conversations, even in noise
- Boosts self-image and confidence
- Improved social life and mental health
- Feeling healthier and less fatigued
- Improvements in relationships and at work
Hearing is also very much related to your overall health. There are links between untreated hearing loss and dementia – the risk doubles even with mild hearing loss. That’s why it’s important to get a regular hearing check-up and get your hearing back on track ASAP.
Going to see an audiologist is similar to seeing an optician. At your appointment, they will ask about your recent experiences before checking your hearing (you sit in a quiet room with headphones on and press a button when you hear sounds). The resulting audiogram, which is a snapshot of your hearing profile, will show if you have a hearing loss and, if so, which type. Your audiologist will then explain what this means and talk about the different options to help you.