How the Ear Works

Hearing begins when the outer ear, the visible portion of the ear that is on the outside of the head, channels sound waves down the auditory canal. This tube-like passageway is lined with tiny hairs and small glands that produce ear wax.

The middle ear lies at the end of the auditory canal. It is composed of the eardrum and three small bones, known as the hammer, the anvil and the stirrup. When sound waves hit the eardrum, it vibrates and, in turn, moves the hammer. The hammer moves the anvil, which moves the stirrup, transmitting the vibrations into the inner ear. The middle ear functions to amplify sound, which is why significant hearing damage can result from any disruption in any of the parts.

The inner ear consists of the cochlea and the nerve of hearing. It converts sound waves into nerve impulses that travel to the brain via the movement of tiny hair cells. The brain, in turn, allows us to hear, as long as the message it is receiving is not distorted due to problems in the process.

Many people suffer from hearing loss…

In fact, the latest available statistics show that about 15% of American adults (37.5 million) report difficulty hearing! And as the Baby Boomer generation continues to age, that number promises to increase dramatically.

Men (ranging from 20-year-olds to 69-year-olds) are almost twice as likely to suffer from hearing loss compared to women.

Are you one of millions of people who is experiencing difficulty hearing? If so, you are certainly not alone. If you feel that you need assistance along your hearing recovery journey or you have questions regarding the issues you may be experiencing, we encourage you to reach out right away!

Causes of Hearing Damage

The primary causes of hearing loss are:


Exposure to extremely loud noises close to the eardrum


Family history of hearing loss


Medicine


Aging Process


Disease



Head Trauma


One of the most common myths about hearing loss is that only “old people” suffer from it, when in fact, the majority (65%) of people who suffer from hearing damage are actually much younger than 65 and six million people in the U.S. between 18 and 44 suffer from loss of hearing. Age is a contributing factor, but it still definitely does not rule out the exception of millions of teen and young adult Americans who suffer from hearing loss on a daily basis. The truth is that there are several causes of hearing loss with “exposure to noise” ranking high among the reasons.

Types and Treatments of Hearing Loss

Treatment of hearing loss depends upon the type of loss. There are four main types of hearing loss:

Conductive

Conductive hearing impairment occurs when there is a problem with the outer or middle ear that interferes with the passing sound to the inner ear. This could be caused by something as simple as earwax buildup! In most cases, medical or surgical options are available and can often resolve the hearing loss.

Sensorineural

Sensorineural Hearing Loss occurs when the hearing organ, the Cochlea, and/or the auditory nerve is damaged or malfunctions so it is unable to accurately send the electrical information to the brain. Sensorineural Hearing Loss is almost always permanent. It can be genetic or caused by the natural aging process, diseases, accidents, exposure to loud noises or certain kinds of chemicals and medications. Auditory Neuropathy is another form where the nerves that carry sound information to the brain are damaged or malfunction. In most cases, use of hearing aids is the treatment of choice with this type of loss.

Mixed

This is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss.

Central

Strokes and central nerve diseases are often the cause of this type of hearing loss. Even when sound is effectively transmitted ear, the brain is unable to properly interpret these signals. Central hearing loss therefore can also be considered a central auditory processing disorder. Auditory processing disorder is type of learning disability that affects many different people. Affected people may have difficulty understanding speech in certain situations, for example when there is significant background noise or when they are already attending to other auditory stimuli.

Ways You can Prevent Hearing Loss

Let your friends and family know that you are putting effort into reducing your risk of losing your hearing or that you are trying to improve your already existing hearing loss issues so that they can stay mindful of your sensitive ears in environments where they might otherwise play loud music or talk loudly.

Keep the volume of your TV, music, or radio at a lower level.

If you are in an environment where the volume level is out of your control, try to take breaks to limit your exposure to the sound.

Use earplugs when you need to.

Pay attention to signs that might warn you of potential loud noises in the surrounding environment, and then avoid those specific areas as much as possible.

Bring hearing protection devices with you when you are on the go to help protect your ears from possible ear-damaging noises.