Hearing Loss Aspects on Physiology and Psychology

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Sophomore (College 2nd year) ・Psychology ・APA ・3 Sources

Hearing loss is a disease caused by the inability to hear sound. For this kind of inability, there are different causes. The causes of hearing loss are complex. The most complex organs in our bodies are our ears. However, it is the organ used for hearing, consisting of various parts with various significant functions. Hearing loss is associated with diverse physiological facets of the ear. Different organs have various roles in helping a person to hear sound, as per the anatomy of the ear. It results in listening when these sections are affected. The magnitude of the damage can be small or large such as permanent deafness, though some conditions can be corrected medically. Out of hearing loss, various psychological aspects can come in. These psychological upsets affect the individual emotionally.

Psychological Aspects of Hearing Loss

Confusion

Various psychological aspects relate to hearing loss. One of them is confusion. Hearing often goes hand in hand with the environmental changes and aspects. Human beings are born in a manner that they will rely on sound to understand the meaning. This means that individuals can fail to know what is going on around them without sound, or without hearing anything.
Hearing loss causes confusion since interaction to environmental sound and with people is not there anymore. Confusion is defined as a state of not being in harmony with the normal environmental situations and events (Wells, Evans & Cheek , 2016). Bemusement (confusion) resulting from hearing loss may not only be on an emotional level but also purely on a physical level. For instance, consider a deaf person who is trying to cross the road. Even if they have looked at both directions and seen that the road is clear, they may not be in a position to know whether a high-speed ambulance is just around the corner. The anxiety of another oncoming car that they have not seen could make them be confused. Such cases can be really dangerous, and some may lead to death. Communication signals that a deaf person doesn’t comprehend can make the individual frustrated and confused.
A deaf person is always aware of his or her limitation to auditory signals from the environment will always be concerned, have fear and anxiety, and that person will begin to doubt himself only resulting in confusion (Wells, Evans & Cheek, 2016).

Loss of Identity and Low Self Esteem

Loss of identity and low self-esteem are another psychological aspect of hearing loss. People who have lost hearing will often shift their social and emotional perspective to the world. They will also have an emotional and social approach that is negative to them. This is because of the limitation to social activities that is brought about by their disability. At some level, activities such as talking and making jokes with other people could be said to be withdrawn from these people.
In most cases, this may come back but at a different level, angle, and perspective. At first, the sense of identity and low self-esteem may result out of the loss. Many things in life may lose their appeal and not make sense because the deaf cannot enjoy them or participate in them as they could have if they had the sense of hearing. Such an activity is music. Communication styles that were usually used now change, this means that the person who has hearing loss cannot interact freely with others and may seek individuals who they communicate at the same level. Self-esteem is an important social factor for good mental health. Low self-esteem and loss of identity is a psychological effect for those with hearing loss experience (Wells, Evans & Cheek, 2016).

Isolation

Loss of hearing results to serious isolation, both emotionally and socially. A sense of being alone comes especially when the person who is disabled steps back because of his or her inability to communicate with others. The isolation will come initially as one tries to reestablish social balance, say by trying to look out for deaf friends and learning new ways to communicate with other people. Once a person who cannot hear struggles to keep up in a conversion and realizes that the other party is not flowing in the conversation, he or she withdraws from the conversation. This kind of an action will often affect a person’s life. Withdrawal from a conversation is one of the impacts. This particular person stops attending social events and functions and general withdrawal from interactions.
Because of limited communication and lack of communication in cases of initial stages, the person with hearing loss will be seen as he/she is not interested. This often leads to depression in the person. Other people start to misunderstand the person and may seclude him/her because they do not understand the person's situation. As said earlier, this social isolation will eventually lead to depression. Emotional isolation also comes as a result of this situation.

Shame, Embarrassment, Guilt and Anger

Communication is usually very easy and natural when the sense of hearing is working properly. Different activities such as listening to music, hearing animals and birds from different directions make their noises, and everyday chat with family and friends are things an individual enjoys. However, these activities turn out to be something very stressful once the sense is lost. Fatigue and embarrassment are some of the consequences that come with it. In the process of trying to cope up with the rest of the world, there is a struggle that comes with learning new skills to communicate. Skills such as facial expressions and sign language often come with the use of the body in one way or another. Not being used to this new experience, the day to day routine of these activities will often lead to weariness and fatigue. With direct connection the body has with the mind, physical fatigue will eventually result in emotional fatigue. Embarrassment manifests itself more often when interacting with people. This is more pronounced especially when the person who has lost hearing is interacting with close people such as family and friends. It becomes somehow uncomfortable for the person to communicate in other new ways. Adapting to this new change is always difficult since they could interact normally in the recent past. This leaves only emotional imbalance to this person out of the embarrassment he/she gets. The embarrassment is even more when the other person shows some kind of concern or awareness of the changes that have taken place.
Embarrassment goes hand in hand with guilt. The guilt is brought about by the fact that one is not in a position to do what he/she used to do. In their struggle to communicate and be together with the people who hear, people with hearing loss will often feel guilt and exclude themselves. This especially happens if the other party cannot get the message. The sense of having not done the right thing will crib in, leaving a huge sense of guilt for the person with the hearing loss.
Out of fatigue, embarrassment, and guilt, a person with hearing loss will be angry. This anger will be directed to others, or to oneself. To others in a sense that, maybe there is no proper understanding of one another or the perception that some people might have to the deaf. The person with hearing loss might develop anger out of the actions and perceptions of the people towards him or her as a special case. Anger to oneself results as a person sees himself/herself as inferior or due to a low self-esteem. Unless controlled the person remains in a turmoil of self-reject and hot temper.

Anxiety and Suspiciousness

Stress, fear, and anxiety are feelings that can be produced by loss of hearing. When hearing loss levels increase, the levels of anxiety also increase. However, it is not everybody with a hearing loss that suffers from above normal levels of anxiety. Clinical depressions and phobias often develop in cases where anxiety levels are higher above the normal levels. A number of situations normally give rise to anxiety. One of the situations that result in anxiety is when a deaf person is communicated to but does not comprehend the message passed across. Another situation is the worry of being left out in isolation by family and friends in their plans. This may happen when the family does not want to deal with a person who cannot hear. Worry that you will miss getting/hearing some important information in the office, not hearing the phone ring when an important call will be made or fear that one will not hear somebody or a thief breaking into the house are also some other situations that give rise to anxiety. It is not like these events will occur, but even if none of them occurs, anxiety disorder will arise by the fact that the person knows they could occur. Such cases of emotional disorders resulting from hearing loss will require professional help.

Physiological Aspects of Hearing Loss

There are various physiological aspects of hearing loss. These are those factors that directly or indirectly affect the functioning of the ear and thus result in hearing loss. Physiological aspects are those that relate to the parts of the ear and the functioning of the ear. The ear is the sensory organ that enables organisms to perceive sound.

Physiological Parts and Functions of the Ear

The ear is composed of three parts. These parts work hand in hand, or they work together to enable hearing process to take place effectively. In the eventuality that these parts are affected, the problem of hearing loss results. The main parts of an ear include the outer ear, middle ear, and the inner ear.
The outer ear is the outside visible part of the ear. Other than the exterior portions, it also includes the ear canal. This part directs or can be said to “funnel” the noise or sound into the ear canal. The ear canal acts as a chamber that resonates sound. The canal, in this case, increases the level of the sound.
The middle ear is one of the interior parts of the ear and starts right after the ear canal. It comprises several parts such as the eardrum and ossicular chain. All these are parts essential for hearing in that they translate the sound pressure that comes from the canal and directs it to the inner ear where perception takes place. Hearing loss will result if the no proper translation is done or if no translation is done at all due to say damaged parts (Wingfield & Peelle, 2015).
The inner ear is the third part of the ear, and this is where the sound is perceived. It contains a number of other smaller organs and fluids that enable the perception process to take place. After perception, the sound and information are then transmitted to the brain.

Physiological Conditions of Hearing Loss

There are different conditions of hearing loss that results out of the physiological aspects of hearing loss. If the parts of the ear are affected in one way or another, the hearing loss comes into play. The damage can be out of an infection, an accident causing physical injury, or even practices that are not healthy to the ear such as listening to too loud music for a long time.
Conductive hearing loss is a hearing loss physiological condition that results out of improper working of the outer and middle ear. The condition comes when the bones/the bone chain or ossicular chain does not move properly. Such a poor movement of these organs can be as a result of and infection or head trauma. The loudness of sound is reduced because the middle ear has been affected and therefore cannot conduct sound properly to the inner ear. Such a condition results to an individual straining to listen to something.
Another hearing loss condition resulting out of the physiological condition is a condition called sensor neural hearing loss. This involves hearing loss out of the impact created on the sensory part of the ear, or the inner ear. Hearing loss comes as an outcome of the cochlea or the nerves in the ear is impaired. In this type of physiological condition, both the volume/sound/loudness and clarity are affected. The cause of this kind of physiological hearing loss problem can be attributed to repeated trauma to the nerves and the cochlea, all parts of the inner ear. This is a case that is pronounced more especially where there is a continuous exposure to high volumes of sound or loud sounds. When the nerves and the cochlea are damaged, hearing loss becomes permanent because damage to these parts cannot be reversed.
A condition called mixed hearing loss results when there is a combination of both conductive and sensor neural hearing losses. Mixed hearing loss is as a result of the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear getting affected. These parts are impaired of their functions by the various causes. These causes include accidents leading to physical damage, infections, traumas and even exposure to inappropriate conditions as discussed before.
The physiological aspects of hear loss fore-mentioned can be corrected through different means. However, not all the conditions are reversible. Some of these problems to the ear can be as from birth, whereas others are experienced in a later age, depending on the causative agent. Congenital absence of the ear canal, a condition of the ear canal not opening at birth, malformation or the middle ear parts not working properly are conditions that can easily be corrected my surgery. If this is not possible, alternative means can be used to correct the problem such as the use of a hearing aid.
Cases, where the parts of the ear fail to perform their functions well due to infections, can also be treated. Infections normally are due to bacterial and viral disease causing organisms. Such infections get treated by administering antibiotic and antifungal medications.
There are other cases that damage the physical parts of the ear such as traumas, foreign material in the ear, Eustachian tube dysfunction etc. Such disorders if chronic will require surgery in order to correct them.

Physiology of a Damaged Cochlea

A damaged cochlea of the ear will result in the loss of hearing. As stated before, some these parts of the ear once they have been damaged, they cannot be returned to their normal functioning. The conditions are irreversible. Hearing loss, therefore, becomes permanent or the individual gets deaf. The functioning of a normal cochlea largely depends on the active mechanism of the Occupational Hearing Conservationist (OHC). The importance of this is linked to the production of the high sensitivity of the BM to sounds that are low and also sharp tuning of BM.
Cochlea damage normally involves the damage of the OHC, leading to hearing loss. This is because the OHCs are normally very vulnerable. Active mechanism of transmission of sounds to the BM and its sharp response reduces and can be lost altogether. In order for the damaged ear, or the person with the reduced loss to hear probably, the sounds have to be intense. Intense sounds will produce the required magnitude in order to for the BM to respond (Moore, 2007).

Approach to Hearing Loss and Physiological Aspects

Conduction of sound is done by the sensitive inner ear. Even with very mild and temporary sounds, conduction can take place. But when there are infections, no conduction and thus hearing loss. The other physiological aspects as discussed before also contribute to this, and thus often a person will be unable to distinguish between different ranges of sound. Such auditory disorders that lead to hearing disorders affect even to the processing centers of the brain. Damage can affect one or both ears. Hearing loss varies in so much an extent the way it affects speech, communication, and language (Moore, 2007).

Conclusion

Hearing loss is a disorder that is a result of damage to the ear. The ear is an organ in living organisms whose main purpose is to perceive sound. The perception, conduction, and transmission of sound to the ear are achieved by the various mechanisms that the ear has. The ear has physical parts and other small organs within it that make it up. All these components of the ear play different roles that thus enable sound to be perceived. The three major parts of the ear are the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. All these together form the whole ear.
Hearing loss can result from many physiological factors. These factors range in many forms. It could be physical damage, fungal or bacterial infections, or even poor practices to the ear such as listening to loud music for a long period. As such, these aspects cause damage to the different parts of the ear. These damages can be treated by various means and the conditions returned to normal and avoid hearing loss. In other cases, some of the parts of the ear might not be treated or corrected. This means permanent damage to the ear and therefore, deafness.
Associated with hearing loss are the psychological aspects that come with it. People who have hearing loss are affected in one way or another, both emotionally and psychologically. Several psychological aspects that come with hearing loss include Anxiety and suspiciousness, low self-esteem and loss of identity, self-criticisms, sadness and depression, embarrassment, shame, guilt, and anger. All these are psychological aspects of hearing loss. 

References

Moore, B. C. (2007). Cochlear hearing loss: physiological, psychological and technical issues. Chichester: John Wiley.
Wingfield, A., & Peelle, J. E. (2015). The effects of hearing loss on neural processing and plasticity. Frontiers in Systems Neuroscience, 9. doi:10.3389/fnsys.2015.00035
Wells N.M., Evans G.W., Cheek K.A. (2016). Environmental Psychology.

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