Have you ever wondered how you hear? I mean, you know that something makes a noise and then all of a sudden you realize that the truck in front of you is backing up, but do you know what actually goes into this process?
Your Goodyear audiologist thinks that understanding the process of hearing can help you relate more to your hearing loss.
Structure of the Ear
The ear consists of three sections: the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. Each plays an important role in hearing.
The outer ear is called the auricle or pinna. It is the external portion visible to others and is responsible for collecting sound waves and funneling them into the ear canal. There, they are amplified and sent to the eardrum (tympanic membrane), causing it to vibrate.
The middle ear consists of the auditory canal and tympanic membrane. When the eardrum vibrates, it stimulates movement of the ossicles, a trio of tiny bones comprised of the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil) and stapes (stirrup). The stapes attaches to the oval window, which connects the middle and inner ears.
The inner ear contains the cochlea, a fluid-filled structure where vibrations transmitted from the eardrum cause hair cells to move. This movement is converted to electrical impulses that traverse up the auditory nerve to the brain. There, the brain interprets the electrical impulses as sound and the hearing process is complete.
How Does Hearing Loss Occur?
Alright, now that we have reviewed the structures of the ear, we can discuss what happens when things go wrong. There are three types of hearing loss.
Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the outer or middle ear. This is often caused by trauma or disease.
Sensorineural hearing loss (also called nerve deafness) occurs when there is damage to the inner ear. Typically, this is caused by damage to the hair cells within the cochlea that will prevent the electrical signals from reaching the auditory nerve. If they can’t transmit information, you cannot hear.
This type of hearing loss can be caused by:
- Exposure to loud noise
- Ototoxic medications
Mixed hearing loss is exactly what is sounds like – there is damage to both your inner ear and outer or middle ear.
To learn more about the types and causes of hearing loss or to schedule an appointment, contact your Goodyear audiologist today.