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Hearing management

Updated 06 December 2017

Get greener hearing

Hearing loss means you use more energy trying to identify sounds - find out how it works, and how you can get greener hearing.

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Did you know that hearing loss costs you energy? For the first time in our history, we human beings are becoming truly aware of our impact on energy usage and fossil fuel consumption. I don’t want you to use up unnecessary resources. This is why I encourage you to have your hearing checked.

How hearing works

Hearing well requires an incredibly efficient system, fed at cellular level by your oxygen and fuel intake. When we are listening, a million processes are happening in a very short period of time. Speech and sound, the briefest of signals, are changing constantly in our environments, and so we must hear alterations of less than 10 milliseconds. The sounds travel down our ear canals and beat on our eardrums, causing a mechanical chain of bones to move at the same number of cycles per second, or, what you hear as pitch.

A second membranous drum does the same thing at the entrance to the inner ear or cochlear. Fluid in the cochlear vibrates and stimulates tiny little nerve endings, called hair cells. This causes a chemical encoding of the sounds, which jumps the gap between our ear’s nerve beginnings, and the nerve pathway, or Auditory Nerve.

This creates electrical impulses up the nerve, feeding the brain. Brain cells interpret the sound using our memory and association to give it meaning. Then we must hold our attention on only one sound, to concentrate and lift it out of its background.

How much energy does hearing use?

You can bet that you have to burn a furnace to keep your hearing energised all day long!

So what about a breakdown in the system? Think of a simple light bulb: it emits light but heats up in the process- which is an efficiency problem which results in energy loss. So if an existing system develops a fault, it will use more energy than it has ever done before.

People with hearing loss have to concentrate far harder than normal hearers. Their ear system has lost efficiency due to their reduction in audibility. As the detection part of the system (the ear) changes, more work has to be done by the identification and decoding part of the nerve and brain. It has to guess at the missing parts- such as when you play hangman, and guess at missing letters.

This leads to tremendous fatigue and irritability on the part of the hearer, because he must use more resources to hear in quiet, and even more in noise.

Most people with even a small hearing impairment will begin to have more difficulty in noise, and sometimes give up on social interaction, over time becoming more isolated, withdrawn, and tired. We have such a wonderful life. Get greener hearing and have your hearing assessed.

(Natalie Buttress, Audiologist, September 2010)

More info:

Hearing care questions?  Ask the Expert

Widex has a finger on the pulse, an eye on the world and an ethos to help

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Widex understands the complexity of helping people to hear. Widex takes inspiration from the real world and natural life and draws this into three pillars, the foundation of our high definition, natural hearing solutions.

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Ask the Expert

Hearing Expert

Dr Kara Hoffman graduated from UCT in 2004, thereafter she completed her year of community service in Durban. In 2010 she completed her Masters Degree in Paediatric Aural Rehabilitation from UKZN. In 2016, she became a Doctor of Audiology through the University of Arizona (ATSU). Dr Hoffman and her partner Lauren Thompson opened a fully diagnostic audiology practice called Thompson & Hoffman Audiology Inc. In 2011 with world-class technology and equipment to be able to offer the broad public all hearing-related services including hearing testing for adults and babies, vestibular (balance) assessments and rehabilitation, industrial audiology, hearing devices, central auditory processing assessments for school-aged children, school screening, neonatal hearing screening programmes at Alberlito and Parklands Hospital, cochlear implants and other implantable devices, medicolegal assessments and advanced electroacoustic assessments of hearing. Thompson and Hoffman Audiology Inc. are based at Alberlito Hospital in Ballito, St Augustines Hospital in Durban and at 345 Essenwood Road, Musgrave. The practices are all wheelchair friendly. There are three audiologists that practice from Thompson & Hoffman – including Dr Kara Hoffman, Lauren Thompson & Minette Lister. The practice boasts professional, highly qualified, and extensive diagnostic services where all your hearing healthcare needs can be met. The additional licensing in vestibular assessment and rehabilitation, paediatric rehabilitation and cochlear implantation places this practice in one of the top specialist audiological positions in South Africa, with a wealth of experience in all clinical areas of audiology and is a very well respected and sought-after practice.

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