HOW DO WE HEAR?
Hearing is one of the senses that connects us to our loved ones, and to the universe around us. The world without the voices of our loved ones or the sound of birdsong is empty and silent.
Sound travels through the ear canal to reach the eardrum. Sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate, setting the three tiny bones in the middle ear into motion. This causes the fluid inside the inner ear (cochlear) to move the hair cells. The cochlear hair cells change the movement into electric impulses which are then sent along the hearing nerve to the brain and interpreted as sound.
In South Africa, there are an estimated 3.6 million people suffering from disabling hearing loss (hearing loss that needs treatment). Babies can be born with significant permanent hearing loss and later onset hearing impairments can develop due to various causes, such as disease, noise exposure, use of ototoxic drugs, or poor treatment of ear infections.
Severe-to-profound hearing loss from birth impacts language learning, cognitive development, self-esteem, and educational attainments. In children, there is a critical period of language development under 3.5 years, and it is recommended that interventions for hearing loss are implemented as soon as possible for the most benefit.
Severe-to-profound hearing-impaired adults have increased unemployment rates, higher rates of depression, and report lower quality of life compared with their hearing peers. Individuals with severe-to-profound hearing loss show no meaningful benefit from conventional hearing aids and require alternative treatment options, such as a cochlear implant.