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NYC Personal Injury Lawyer » New York Personal Injury Resources » Types of Injuries » Loss of Hearing Injuries
Your ears are complex sense organs. The outer ear amplifies and focuses sound. The eardrum converts air pressure changes into physical vibrations of tiny bones in the ear. These physical vibrations get picked up by tiny hair cells that generate nerve signals for the brain to decode.
Any disruption of this process can produce a loss of hearing. This includes damage to the brain which can experience tinnitus from a concussion or another brain injury.
A hearing injury can be devastating for an accident victim. With this in mind, here is some information about loss of hearing injuries and the compensation you can seek for them.
Partial or total hearing loss can happen when any part of the ear gets injured. The parts of the ear include:
The outer ear includes the ear lobe, the ear canal, and the eardrum. This part of the ear functions as a microphone to pick up the pressure changes caused by sound waves. As these waves hit the eardrum, they cause the eardrum to vibrate.
The middle ear includes three bones called the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. These bones pick up the vibrations of the eardrum and transmit them to the inner ear.
The inner ear includes the cochlea. The bones of the middle ear transmit sound vibrations to the fluid-filled cochlea.
The fluid in the cochlea vibrates in sympathy with the bones. Small sensory hairs in the cochlea convert the fluid vibrations into nerve signals representing the various frequencies of the original sound.
These nerve signals travel along the auditory nerve to the brain. The brain decodes these signals and interprets the sound picked up by the ear.
Hearing loss can take many forms depending on what part of the ear gets injured. The main types of hearing loss include:
The outer ear and middle ear conduct sound vibrations to the inner ear. When an injury inhibits the conductive ability of the outer or middle ear, you suffer from conductive hearing loss.
Doctors can treat many types of conductive hearing loss with surgery.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the inner ear or auditory nerve gets damaged. Age-related hearing loss is a form of sensorineural hearing loss as the sensory hairs of the cochlea lose sensitivity.
Sensorineural hearing loss is typically permanent.
Some accident victims experience hearing loss as a symptom of a traumatic brain injury. The auditory cortex of the brain converts nerve signals from the ears into information.
Damage to this area of the brain can cause:
It could also produce a brain condition in which signals reach the brain, but the brain cannot decode them. Accident victims suffering from this condition might lose the ability to identify sounds or understand words.
Doctors rate the severity of hearing loss on a four-step scale:
Mild hearing loss usually involves a loss of the ability to hear quiet sounds or sounds of certain frequencies.
Moderate hearing loss usually involves a loss of hearing across a range of frequencies at normal loudness. As a result, patients with moderate hearing loss might not hear normal conversations without a hearing aid.
Severe hearing loss involves a loss of the ability to hear a range of frequencies over a range of volumes. Patients with severe hearing loss might only hear loud sounds.
Patients with profound hearing loss might not hear anything or hear only extremely loud sounds.
Because of the many parts of the ear, loss of hearing injuries can take many forms, including:
Avulsion happens when trauma tears some or all of the outer ear from your head. The funnel-shaped outer ear directs sounds into the ear canal and eardrum. The grooves in your ear tell you the direction to the source of a sound. Without your outer ear, you might not hear soft sounds and cannot identify where a sound originates.
Doctors can often treat avulsion with reconstructive surgery.
Cauliflower ear happens when trauma bruises your ear. As the bruise swells, it cuts off circulation to the cartilage of your ear. If doctors do not relieve the pressure, the cartilage will die and get replaced with tough cartilage cells. Ultimately, this can cause your ear to look swollen and lumpy like a head of cauliflower.
Cauliflower ear can interfere with the ear’s ability to collect sounds, particularly if it swells over the ear canal. Doctors will usually opt to treat cauliflower ear with cosmetic surgery.
A perforated eardrum can result from a trauma where an object gets driven into your ear. It can also result from air pressure changes. For example, an explosion in a workplace accident could rupture your eardrum.
Symptoms of a perforated eardrum include:
Oftentimes, a perforated eardrum will heal on its own. If it does not, your doctor might need to repair it surgically.
Trauma can fracture or dislocate the small bones in the inner ear. If the bones do not fit together precisely, they cannot transmit vibrations from the eardrum to the cochlea. As a result, you might experience partial or total hearing loss.
Fractured or dislocated bones in the middle ear will usually require surgical repair.
When you lose your hearing due to someone else’s negligence, your compensation should account for all of your economic and non-economic losses. Your economic losses include your medical expenses and lost income.
Depending on your injury, you could face extensive medical treatment, including surgery. You might also require assistive devices, like hearing aids to help restore your hearing.
While you might not need to miss work due to your loss of hearing, you might need to change your duties and work around your hearing loss. The training you need to perform your duties without hearing might also constitute economic losses if you paid for it.
You might also have non-economic damages. These damages compensate you for your physical pain, mental suffering, loss of activities, and other ways your quality of life diminished.
To discuss the compensation you can seek for your loss of hearing injuries, contact the Law Offices of Jay S. Knispel, LLC for a free consultation.
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