Derived from the Latin for “the study of hearing”, audiology looks at the inner working of the ear and the way we receive sound.
Much like the eye, the ear is more complicated than it appears on the surface. There are a lot of moving parts – both figuratively and literally – and understanding them all takes years of study.
If you’d like to meet with a studied audiologist to discuss your own hearing, you can do so for free! Just fill out this quick form, and you’ll be able to book a hearing test near you.
Audiological medical conditions
One of the more obvious health conditions that can impact your ears is hearing loss itself. Either due to sound, age, or disease, it’s not uncommon to experience at least some hearing loss throughout an average human lifespan.
That being said, just because it’s common, doesn’t mean it’s supposed to happen. Hearing loss is, by definition, a medical condition – one that should be avoided and prevented wherever possible.
Hearing loss is obviously a major threat, but there are other health concerns when it comes to the ear. Another substantial hearing problem is tinnitus – the sensation of a persistent ringing or hissing in the ear.
Common among children, but also found in adults, ear infections can be easily handled with antibiotics. However, if they’re not addressed in an appropriate and timely manner, they can lead to permanent ear damage.
And like with any other body cavity, general maintenance and cleaning is essential when it comes to a good level of health. This includes putting no foreign objects inside the canal, and making sure there isn’t too much wax buildup.
As with any part of the body, there are loads of health issues that can arise for any number of reasons, or no reason at all. The reasons we’ve listed are common foundational problems, but if you’re worried that you have a medical problem within your ears, it’s always worth seeing an audiologist for the specifics.
Improving your hearing
So there are a multitude of things that can go wrong with the human ear. But how do you make things go right for it? What can you do to improve or protect your ears?
We’ll tell you right now, as an attempt to deliver a precautionary tale, that there’s nothing anyone can do to improve or recover their hearing. As pessimistic as it sounds, hearing can only get worse, which is why it’s important that you proactively take care of your ears.
The most obvious way of taking care of your ears is limiting your sound intake. Too much sound can start to wear your ears down, and like we said, this can’t be undone. Try not to be exposed to sound over 85 decibels. We realise that this doesn’t mean much to most people, so we’ll say it’s similar to standing next to a road full of busy traffic.
It’s not like a single minute of exposure to this level of sound will cause permanent damage, but it’s definitely best to be avoided when possible.
Other than that, it’s a good idea to maintain a healthy lifestyle in general. Diet, exercise, and minimal drinking and smoking can all help your ears in the long run. Obviously these things are good for hundreds of other parts of your body as well, but that’s for another day.
Balance and hearing loss
You may know that the ears are closely connected to an individual’s balance. The fluid in a person’s inner ear relays the orientation of their head to the brain, so if this fluid is compromised at all, it can cause some problems.
A lot of hearing loss sufferers are elderly, so compromised balance at an age where a fall can lead to serious damage should not be taken lightly. To learn more about how to improve your balance, check out our page on inner ear balance exercises.
Age and hearing loss
So what happens to our ears as we age? Well, to put it bluntly – nothing. It’s a pervasive myth that your hearing naturally vanishes as you age. You don’t have to fall victim to hearing loss over time – in most cases, it merely happens due to less-than-ideal maintenance of your ears.
Age-related hearing loss, known as presbycusis, occurs later in life to those who have been subjected to higher levels of sound, certain medications, or other kinds of aural damage throughout their life.
Presbycusis is basically the audio equivalent of all your chickens coming home to roost. You spend decades working with power drills, and it all seems okay at the time. But when you finally retire, your hearing only then starts to fade.
So we weren’t exactly honest at the beginning of this section – hearing loss can come with age, but only in very unfortunate cases. Provided they take care of their ears, the average person would have to be significantly unlucky to suffer from age-related hearing loss.
Getting a hearing test – what to expect
So what does the actual audiological process look like? We take a deeper dive into the hearing test process in our “What to Expect from a Hearing Test” article, but we’ll give you a brief look here.
After noticing a problem with their ears – whether it’s pain, hearing loss, or just a weird feeling – a person will most likely want to visit an audiologist. In this visit, they would describe their concern, and – based on this description – the audiologist will perform the appropriate examinations.
This could include an otoscopy (peering into the patient’s ear with a light), an audiogram (getting the patient to respond to various audiological stimuli), or a tympanometry (a probe being inserted into the canal to check for reactions).
After seeing the results of these tests, the audiologist will prescribe a course of action to the patient, whether this is a course of medication or a hearing aid.
While no medical professional is infallible, an audiologist is rarely wrong, due to how typically obvious the issue is with the patient. The patient may need to arrange a couple of visits to perfect their hearing aid tuning, but that is usually the extent of repeating issues.
Audiological professionals are the first and last line of defense between humanity and silence. While losing one’s hearing isn’t something for a person to be ashamed of, if it can be prevented, then by all means, it should.
If you’re worried about your own hearing loss, then a hearing test might be for you. To get your own free hearing test, fill out our form – you’ll be able to arrange a consultation near you.