How Do You Hear?

Advanced Hearing & Balance Specialists Hearing Loss

Have you ever wondered how you can hear a bird chirping? Hearing is something most of us take for granted, much like breathing. Understanding the process is important for keeping your hearing healthy.

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.
Parts of the ear in Hurricane, utah

The outer ear is called the auricle or pinna. It is the visible portion of the ear; it is also responsible for collecting sound waves and funneling them into the ear canal. That is where they are amplified and sent to the tympanic membrane (eardrum), 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 the auditory nerve to the brain. There, they are interpreted as sound and the hearing process is complete.

How Does Hearing Loss Occur?

Problems in the outer ear, ear canal, eardrum or middle ear are indicative of conductive hearing loss. It can be caused by any of the following:

  • Ear infection
  • Fluid in the ears
  • Malformation or abnormalities of the outer or middle ear
  • Impacted earwax
  • Foreign object in the ear
  • Allergies
  • Perforated eardrum
  • Otosclerosis
  • Benign tumors

Damage to the inner ear is known as sensorineural hearing loss or “nerve deafness.” This type of hearing loss may be caused by any of these:

  • Noise exposure
  • Head trauma
  • Aging (presbycusis)
  • Viral disease
  • Autoimmune ear disease
  • Meniere’s disease
  • Malformation or abnormality of the inner ear
  • Otosclerosis
  • Tumors

Think you may be suffering from hearing loss? Now is the time to contact your Hurricane audiologist.