Our Hearing System
Hearing with Our Brain
The Facts about HEARing
How We Hear
The human ear is an intricate and delicately balanced structure of the body. In order to understand hearing loss, it is important to know how a normally functioning ear works.
The ear is divided into three parts: outer ear, middle ear and inner ear.
 
Outer Ear Function
The function of the outer ear (pinna) is to collect sound vibrations and funnel them through the ear canal to the eardrum (tympanic membrane). The outer two-thirds of the pinna is lined with cartilage, and contains sebaceous and wax glands. The wax prevents foreign objects from traveling down the canal. Old wax is expelled as new wax is produced.

Middle Ear Function
The middle ear is an air-filled space containing the three smallest bones in the human body. These bones, called ossicles (known as the Malleus, Incus, and Stapes), vibrate along with the eardrum. These vibrations amplify and are transmitted across a tiny membrane into the snail-shaped inner ear (cochlea). An important component of the middle ear is the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear to the back of the nose. Its function is to control air pressure and bring a fresh oxygen supply to the lining of the middle ear.

Inner Ear Function
The inner ear contains structures for both hearing and balance. When sound waves reach the inner ear, they enter the cochlea. Fluid in the cochlea stimulates 25,000 tiny nerve endings, or "hair cells," to move. As these hair cells move, they send electrical nerve impulses to the brain along the auditory nerve. The brain interprets these signals as sound information.
Ear Diagram / Model
What Are The Signs/Symptoms of Hearing Loss?
Hearing Loss is not physically painful or visible; so many people are unaware that they even have a problem. Hearing loss sneaks up on you because the change is so gradual.
 
  • You require frequent repetition
  • You can’t hear people speaking over the background noise and having a conversation is too much of an effort
  • You can hear everything; you just can’t understand it anymore
  • You think that other people sound muffled, or like they’re mumbling
  • You have to pay attention to people’s lip movements and expressions to understand what they are saying
  • You have difficulty hearing in noisy situations such as conferences, restaurants, malls, or crowded meeting rooms
  • You have trouble hearing children and women
  • You are listening to the television or radio at a higher volume than you have in the past
What Can Cause Hearing Loss?
Typical causes for Hearing Loss:
  • Normal aging process
  • Exposure to noise for long periods of time and/or at loud levels
  • Head Injuries
  • Build up of wax in the ear canal
  • Infection of the ear canal
  • Fluid trapped in the middle ear cavity
  • A perforated eardrum
  • Otosclerosis (calcification around the stapes)
  • Ototoxic medication (which damages the auditory system)
 
Inner ear hearing loss, commonly referred to as sensorineural hearing loss, results from the damage to the tiny hair cells that line the cochlea, which ultimately affects the transfer of information from the ear to the brain. Surgical intervention is typically not an option with this type of hearing loss. Rather, hearing aids are most often recommended for sensorineural hearing loss. We live in a noisy world and noise has become the biggest contributor to hearing loss. Once the delicate little hair cells in the cochlea become damaged, it cannot be reversed.
How Can I Prevent Hearing Loss?
99% of noise-induced hearing loss is preventable!
 
  • Always wear hearing protection and take breaks from noisy situations.  Click Here to see helpful custom hearing protect.
  • Turn down the volume when listening to music.
  • Never stand directly next to a loud speaker!
  • Quit smoking: It doubles the risk of noise-induced hearing loss. "After a loud show, the way you get better is through blood supply to your inner-ear nerve cells," says Chicago audiologist Michael Santucci. "If you do something cardiovascularly restrictive, like smoking, your blood supply won't be as good. You're being exposed to two toxins, the cardiovascular toxin and the noise toxin."
  • Adding carpet and wall covering helps reduce noise pollution in rooms.
  • If you already have a hearing loss you can slow down progression with corrective hearing aids for appropriate stimulation and processing. Click Here to see the corrective hearing aid styles and types.
Hearing Aid Diagram
How Digital Hearing Aids Work
A hearing aid consists of a microphone, an amplifier or processor and a speaker, which transmits the enhanced sound waves into your ear. A tiny battery supplies the necessary power. Modern hearing instruments are tailored to suit the ear shape, degree of hearing loss, lifestyle, and listening habits of each individual user.
 
Modern hearing aids are also equipped with directional microphones, meaning that what you are looking at is also what you hear best. In other words, you decide what you want to listen to at any given time, especially in conversations with several people as we would with normal listening abilities.
What Issues Can Untreated Hearing Loss Cause?
Untreated hearing loss significantly reduces the quality of life for those affected, especially socially and/or psychologically.
 
In 1999, the US National Council on Aging (NCOA) conducted a study of people over 50 with hearing loss, and this survey can still be cited as representative of many other studies. The study showed that people with hearing loss who did not use a hearing aids were more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety and agitation than those who did. They cut down on their social activities, became less emotionally stable and had difficulty concentrating.
In contrast, the study revealed that the quality of life of most hearing aid users had improved substantially since they had started wearing a hearing aid. Their family relationships were better, their self-esteem improved, and they felt that they had greater independence and security.
 
Failure to treat hearing loss can lead to physical problems: In addition to a general feeling of malaise, those surveyed showed symptoms such as fatigue or exhaustion, headaches and muscular pains, dizziness, stress and high blood pressure, eating and sleep disorders, and digestive problems.
Symptoms Alzheimer's vs Hearing Loss