Mechanics of Hearing Loss — An Education
Your ear consists of three parts – the outer, middle and inner ear. The outer ear is comprised of the pinna, eardrum and ear canal. The middle ear contains the ossicles and the ear drum. The inner ear is made up of the auditory nerve, the cochlea and the brain.
In order for you to hear, the sound waves have to enter the ear canal and cause the ear drum to vibrate. This action continues up through the ossicles, which are tiny bones. Finally, the ossicles come up against the cochlea’s membrane window, and cause the cochlea fluid to move, demanding a response from the auditory nerve. And that, highly simplified of course, is how you hear.
When your hearing is normal, nothing inhibits the passing of information from the various parts of your ear to your brain. If anything along this chain is disrupted, you can have trouble hearing, and the kind of hearing problem that you experience will depend on where, along the chain, the problem occurs.
If the problem occurs in the outer or middle ear, sound will not be transmitted properly. The cochlea may still be working the way they should, but they may not be getting sufficient information. When this happens, you have what is known as conductive hearing loss. This can be caused by various conditions, including ear infections or holes in the ear drum.
If the problem occurs in the inner ear, the problem could be that the sound is getting to the cochlea the way it should, but it isn’t reaching the auditory nerve. Another possibility is that the auditory nerve is failing to pass on information properly, if at all. This is known as sensorineural hearing loss, and it can be caused by Ménière’s Disease, advanced age, or prolonged exposure to loud noise.
It is also possible to have both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss at the same time.
Now that you know about the various types of hearing loss, and the ways that are used to test for hearing loss, contact Hearing Services of Santa Barbara to arrange a consultation. You can reach us in Santa Barbara at (805) 967-4200, and in Solvang at (805) 688-3100. We look forward to helping you with your hearing issues.