Frequently Asked Questions About Hearing Health:


The sole purpose of your outer ear is to collect sound. It sends the sound down your ear canal to your eardrum. The eardrum starts to vibrate which causes the 3 bones (the 3 smallest bones in your body) in your middle ear to vibrate. The vibrations are transferred to your inner ear where millions of tiny hair cells respond and send the information to your brain. Your brain then processes and makes sense of the information it received.

Any time there is a change in hearing clarity and understanding, there is a hearing health problem.

When certain sounds are missing, your brain is not getting all of the stimulation it needs to process and make sense of the sounds it’s receiving.

There are two types of hearing problems. One is medically or surgically treatable. One is treatable with sound and hearing devices customized for you.

  • A Conductive hearing problem is when the sound cannot get from the outer ear to the inner ear. Some examples are: wax blocking the ear canal, a hole in the eardrum, fluid in the middle ear (fluid in the middle ear is the number one reason for pediatric visits), one of the tiny bones in the middle ear gets stuck and cannot move. Most Conductive hearing problems can be corrected medically or surgically. However, conductive hearing problems comprise only 5% of all hearing issues.
  • A Sensori-neural hearing problem is any problem that originates in the inner ear and/or auditory nerve. 95% of all hearing issues are sensori-neural and are not medically or surgically treatable. The number one cause of sensori-neural hearing problems is exposure to noise. Common, everyday noises (traffic, appliances, music in exercise classes, etc) are loud enough to damage or kill the tiny hair cells in the inner ear that respond to sound. When these hair cells are damaged or destroyed, the inner ear is only sending partial information to your brain resulting in a lack of clarity and understanding.
    The only treatment for sensori-neural hearing problems is using some type of hearing device to correct the deficit.

Hearing problems can affect anyone at any age. It is naturally more common as we get older because we’ve exposed our ears to more noise throughout our lifetime. Interestingly, since the advent of personal listening systems (iPods, MP3 players), nearly as many teenagers have hearing problems as 60 year olds!

  • One third of those between ages 40-49 have some degree of decreased hearing
  • Every other person over the age of 50 experiences difficulty hearing clearly in certain situations
  • One half of those over 70 have a significant hearing problem
  • People wait much too long to have a hearing checkup and get treatment

Because you’re not deaf and can actually hear okay, sometimes it’s difficult to know if there’s really a problem. Remember, most people with hearing problems hear fine; they just don’t understand…the voices aren’t clear. That’s why it takes so long to recognize that you really have a significant hearing issue, even though your spouse, kids, and friends have been telling you for years.

  • You know someone is talking, but you don’t understand what they’re saying.
  • You accuse your spouse, kids, co-workers, or friends of mumbling. You hear fine…they just don’t speak clearly.
  • You have no difficulty understanding when you are in a quiet room with one person, facing one another.
  • You have trouble understanding some people in a group (4 or more).
  • You have difficulty understanding someone from another room.
  • It is especially hard to understand what people are saying when there’s a lot of background noise.
  • You don’t always hear the movie, play, pastor/rabbi clearly. You miss the punch line of the joke.
  • You prefer the TV louder than those watching with you.
  • Find yourself saying, “what?” “Huh?” “Pardon me?” “Could you repeat that?”

Two or more YES answers indicate a possible hearing deficit. Early detection and treatment is essential to preserve brain processing. You should have a baseline hearing checkup.