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A Dive Into the Tumultuous Journey of Hearing Loss and the Miraculous Technology that Offers Answers

A recent Oscar-nominated film portrayed the story of one young man who experiences rapid hearing loss. The film stirred quite the conversation in the deaf community— as well as among others who have experienced some degree of hearing loss. It also raised questions about one such technology —cochlear implants— and its implications for those with some or complete hearing loss. One of the film’s central themes is the emotional turmoil that the main character experiences as he loses his hearing.  The viewer experiences the character’s anxiety and confusion as he realizes what is happening. Here at Mission Hearing, we know the stress that people encounter when they experience some form of hearing loss. What’s most remarkable in so many of these stories is the fact that technology has come so far in assisting people in recovering from hearing loss while allowing them to pursue the life they want to lead. 

The Internal Chaos of Hearing Loss

In the film “The Sound of Metal,” Ruben is a recovering addict who has found his calling as a drummer, playing heavy metal shows with his girlfriend Lulu. He has an idyllic life and appears to be relishing it— as he and Lulu travel the country playing wild music and living a gypsy-like nomadic life in their musically equipped Airstream. 

All this comes to a screeching halt when Ruben notices a distant but very prominent ringing. The ringing quickly converts to muffled surroundings and soon completely muted. The rapidity of Ruben’s hearing loss is harrowing, and the film does a good job of depicting the emotional turmoil people experience with sudden or rapid hearing loss.  Whether this happens early on in life —to an adolescent or young adult— or whether it happens later in life, the prospect of losing hearing is very disorienting and certainly causes people to feel overwhelmed. In Ruben’s case, the hearing loss was rather significant (almost total),  rendering him almost completely deaf. Even when hearing loss is partial, the transition can be uncomfortable for people. 

Different Types of Hearing Loss — What You Need to Know 

Not all hearing loss is the same. The kind of hearing assisting device (or hearing aid) that a person wears does depend on where the damage has occurred. Common forms of hearing loss include:

  • Sensorineural Hearing Loss:  The inner ear or hearing nerve is damaged. This occurs when some of the hairs in the cochlea are damaged. 
  • Sudden Sensorineural Hearing Loss: This type of hearing loss occurs very suddenly or over a few days (similar to what happened to Ruben in the film).  A delay in treating the condition decreases any chances of restoring the lost hearing. 
  • Conductive hearing loss: This hearing loss occurs in the outer or middle ear where sound waves are unable to carry sounds into the inner ear. This hearing loss can happen if the eardrum is injured, there is a bone abnormality, or the middle ear space is impacted by fluid. 
  • Mixed hearing loss: There are circumstances in which a person can experience a combination of sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss. 

Seeing an audiologist will help you determine the kind of hearing loss and the best course of action. 

Recent Technology that Has Made a Difference 

The film’s dramatic element rests on what appears to be Ruben’s choice between re-entering the hearing world (through cochlear implants) or remaining in the deaf community. This is not always a binary choice, as some audiologists have commented since the film’s release. Some in the deaf community use implants and aids to assist and for safety, while still learning ASL and being fully active members of the deaf community. Others consider the use of this particular technology as incompatible with the life of a deaf person. Nevertheless, it made for a good story and highlighted the technology of the cochlear implant itself. After all, this process involves bypassing the inner ear and communicating sounds directly to the brain, via the auditory nerve.

Technology has significantly made an impact on the way audiologists approach hearing loss and the options available to them. For example, even the complex technology behind cochlear implants is being tweaked. Audiologists are trying to turn the device into an optical device rather than an electric one. 

Incredible technology that has impacted those with hearing loss includes:

Digital Technology: In the late 1990s digital technology was a major milestone in the world of audiology. This type of technology allows for the hearing aid to discern and separate sounds from the surrounding environment. Digital hearing aids allow for much more flexibility in the device.  The digital capabilities in a hearing aid allow the wearer to:

  • Minimize the background noise and increase understanding of speech 
  • Include wireless capabilities 
  • Take advantage of an improved battery life 

Other technologies that have assisted people with hearing loss include:

  • FM receiver systems
  • Infrared receiver systems
  • Hearing introduction loop technologies
  • Other assistive technologies 
  • Captioning for programming
  • Emergency information technologies 

Get on the Right Path for Your Hearing Loss Journey With Mission Hearing 

One in eight people in the United States aged 12 years and older has hearing loss in both ears. And also according to the National Institute on Deafness and other Communication Disorders, about 2 percent of adults aged 45 to 54 have disabling hearing loss. When it comes to experiencing hearing loss, you are not alone. It can be a difficult journey but today’s great audiologists and technology are here to help you through it. Hearing aid technology has come a long way in the past few decades and it can provide answers. 

Are you experiencing hearing loss? Want to find out about the many options available for you? Visit Mission Hearing today and learn about the miraculous technology at your fingertips!

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