“EVERYTHING IS SO QUIET.
I can’t even hear the engine,” commented my husband as we sat in the car ready to exit our garage. “Maybe I’m going deaf,” he stated grimly.
My husband had no history of hearing problems, yet it had become obvious over the past few weeks that something was changing. It caught my attention and concern initially when he complained of some discomfort in one ear.
In the days and weeks that followed, he had to ask me and others increasingly to repeat comments and questions. There were also incidents of his obviously not hearing elements of conversation and sounds at normal volume. Not being a person inclined to seek medical evaluation for every complaint, he preferred to wait the situation out, hoping the problem would clear itself up. However, on the day of his comment in the garage, I knew we were in for an interesting experience.
I CAN’T HEAR YOU
His hearing was worse than ever that morning. It was Sabbath, and we were leaving to visit a church in another city. My husband had accepted a preaching appointment there, and we were prepared to stay for the fellowship lunch. We didn’t converse much on our one-and-a-half-hour trip, as he had difficulty hearing me speak unless I shouted.
We had visited this church many months previously when my husband’s hearing ability was normal, so we were acquainted with the friendliness and warmth of this small group of worshippers. It was no surprise, therefore, that after becoming aware of our problem, they demonstrated utmost kindness and understanding.
The sermon went very well, but the fellowship lunch experience was memorable. My poor husband was seriously compromised in trying to effectively converse with people, and I was kept on my toes in efforts to assist him and others in their communication attempts. In some ways it was a comical situation, but also stressful for us both.
“Maybe I’m going deaf,” he stated grimly.
HOW HEARING WORKS
Major areas of the ear include the external ear, the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. Sounds enter through the external ear and travel through the outer ear canal, then cause vibrations to the eardrum at the entrance to the middle ear. The three small bones of the middle ear amplify these vibrations as they progress to the inner ear. At this point the vibrations pass through fluid in the snail-like structure in the inner ear called the cochlea. The tiny hairs attached to the nerve cells in the cochlea help convert the vibrations into electrical signals, which are transmitted to the brain. The brain then turns these signals into sounds that help us identify and understand what we are hearing. Anything that disrupts the vibration or electrical impulse progression of sound through this process can alter or hinder the final effect of completed transmission and clear interpretation.
CAUSES OF HEARING LOSS
Many people suffer hearing loss to some degree as they age. Age-related decrease in hearing can happen gradually and may not be obvious in its progression. Other risk factors to hearing ability can include:
1. Exposure to loud noises over time or from a short blast
2. Illnesses, particularly those that include high fevers
3. Ear infection to the outer or inner ear
4. A history of frequent ear infections
5. An injuary to the head or to the eardrum
6. The presence of a foreign body within the inner ear
7. An abnormal bone growth or the presence of a tumor
8. The effects of some medications
9. A buildup of excessive earwax within the inner ear, causing blockage to sound waves
10. Hereditary tendencies related to various aspects of the ear mechanism
Many causes of hearing loss cannot be reversed. However, in the best interest of effective treatment, it is advisable to seek medical evaluation early, especially in situations of rapid hearing loss, discomfort, or pain. The good news is that there is often effective medical treatment available as well as innovative devices that can be very beneficial in restoring lost hearing to some degree.
WHEN SHOULD I SEE A DOCTOR?
Seek medical evaluation as soon as possible if you have a sudden loss or accelerated diminishing of hearing ability in one or both ears. In specific instances early treatment is key
to effectiveness. Some signs and symptoms that are causes for concern can include:
- Having to continually ask others to speak louder or repeat a question or comment
- Needing to increase the volume of the television or radio in order to hear more clearly
- Withdrawing from the conversation of others
- Inability to hear sounds that were previously clear, such as your vehicle’s motor
- Hearing loss associated with pain, discomfort, or a ringing in the ear
- Hearing loss that is disrupting your normal daily routine
CARING FOR YOUR EARS
We don’t tend to think as much about care for our ears as we do for our teeth or eyes—that is, until something goes wrong with our hearing. Hearing loss can significantly decrease quality of life, contributing to feelings of isolation, depression, cognitive impairment, and decline. Preventing hearing impairment is important and should include:
Protection: from exposure to cold, from frequent or sudden loud noise, and from injury to the ear or head.
Hearing Testing: especially if working in a noisy location or when experiencing hearing changes.
Safe Cleaning Method: Most people don’t need to clean their ears regularly, as earwax usually can take care of itself. However, in instances of wax buildup, it is advisable to follow medical advice regarding treatment. Never insert anything smaller than “your elbow” into the ear, as wax may be pushed deeper into the ear canal, causing impaction or irreversible injury to the eardrum. Use Q-tips only to clean the external ear or the part of the ear you can see.
After returning home that Sabbath evening, my husband at last made the decision to have his ears checked by our medical professional son and daughter-in-law. They found seriously impacted wax in both of his ears. They worked carefully and efficiently at removing the wax over the following hour, and as they progressed successfully in their efforts, my husband’s hearing ability improved accordingly. His joy was complete when he could once again hear our grandson speaking to him.
Ears bless us with not only physical hearing ability but also the capacity to hear with our hearts—people’s voice inflections, the sounds of children laughing, soul-stirring music, the whispers and songs of nature, the verbal expression of a beautiful prayer or stirring sermon, the voices of family and loved ones. These all testify to another marvelous gift given to us by a loving Creator through the intricate structure, marvelous mechanism, and amazing blessing of our ears.