HOW THE EAR FUNCTIONS
The ear has three main parts: the outer, middle and inner ear. The outer ear (the part you can see) opens into the ear canal. The eardrum separates the ear canal from the middle ear. Small bones in the middle ear help transfer sound to the inner ear. The inner ear contains the auditory (hearing) nerve, which leads to the brain. Any source of sound sends vibrations or sound waves into the air. These funnel through the ear opening, down the ear canal and strike your eardrum, causing it to vibrate. The vibrations are passed to the small bones of the middle ear, which transmit them to the hearing nerve in the inner ear. Here the vibrations become nerve impulses and go directly to the brain, which interprets the impulses as sound (music, voice, a car horn, etc.). Visit our other pages for more hearing information.
Hearing Loss: Natural Part of the Aging Process
Hearing loss may be a natural part of the aging process, but few of us want to admit to growing older. But perhaps the biggest problem is how we view hearing loss, both as a culture and as individuals. Hearing loss has always carried something of a stigma in comparison to failing eyesight, for example, as a society, we even tackle hair loss or weight loss before hearing loss. Fortunately, that’s changing, fueled in part by your search for knowledge at sites like this one. So, congratulations on taking a step towards making hearing loss not just another topic in the healthcare forum.
The Three Types of Hearing Loss
Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is not conducted sufficiently through the outer ear auditory canal to the eardrum and the tiny bones, also called ossicles, of the middle ear. Conductive hearing loss generally involves a decrease in sound level, or the ability to hear faint sounds. Often this type of hearing loss can be medically or surgically corrected.
Sensorineural hearing loss occurs when the inner ear (cochlea) or the nerve pathways from the inner ear to the brain are damaged. There is no way to medically or surgically correct sensorineural loss as it is considered a permanent decrease in the ability to hear especially faint sounds. It also affects the ability to deduce or interpret particular sounds. This type of hearing loss can also be caused by diseases, drugs that can harm the auditory system, and genetic disorders. It can also be caused by intense noises, aging, and traumatic injury.
If conductive hearing loss occurs simultaneously with sensorineural hearing loss, it is considered a mixed hearing loss. In other words, there may be damage in the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear (cochlea) or auditory nerve. This damage cannot be reversed medically; however, well-fitted hearing aids can improve the quality of one’s hearing.