essence, sound funnels into the ear canal and causes the eardrum
to vibrate. These vibrations are transmitted from the eardrum
through the middle ear by three small bones to the cochlea, the
main organ of hearing. The vibrations cause movement in the
fluid which fills the cochlea. This movement in turn causes
hair cells found in the cochlea to vibrate, creating nerve signals
which are sent to the brain where they are interpreted. The
hair cells at one end of the cochlea respond to slower frequencies,
corresponding to lower pitched sounds, while the hair cells at the
other end of the cochlea respond to faster frequencies or higher
Are Hearing Sounds And Understanding Conversations Different
ability to hear comes from your ears, but your ability to understand
speech comes from your brain.
There are basically three sections in this process; the ear,
the nerves that take the signal from the ear to the brain and the
may be familiar with the old adage: "Use it or
lose it!" The reality is that once you
start losing your hearing, you also start losing your ability
to understand what you are hearing. You don't
actually "hear" a sound until the brain's hearing
centers receive the electrical signals from the inner ear
and properly processes those signals. Consequently,
if those signals are missing or are diminished in quality,
not only do the hearing nerves weaken over time, the hearing
centers in the brain, if not used, also tend to weaken and
atrophy. So, if you are experiencing hearing loss,
DO NOT DELAY in having your hearing tested
and addressing any problems that you may be experiencing.
we have to get the signal to the brain. Sometimes people have
auditory processing difficulties that make speech difficult to understand
when background noise or visual distractions are present. The
problem lies in the processing path the sound takes to the brain.
Think back to your school days. Some
people could study with a party going on while others need it quiet
to soak the lesson in.
Is Hearing Loss So Difficult To Understand And Treat?
previously mentioned, the human body operates on the "use it
or lose it" principle, and hearing is no different. Hearing
loss is often gradual and, therefore, something to which one adapts.
There is a growing collection of detailed studies that show
the sooner one treats hearing loss, the better the outcome one will
have. This is because the longer the problem is ignored, the
harder it is to treat.
aids can do a great job in filling in the gaps that your inner ear
is missing but they need help from the rest of your auditory system
to get the light bulb in your brain to flash on. Considerations
that may help you:
the right hearing aids for your hearing loss. Although
most of the hearing aids available now are good at adjusting
for your hearing loss, some are better than others at cutting
out background noise or enhancing speech.
takes time. Over time the brain loses some
of the synapses (connections) it needs to interpret the speech
signal it is getting. If you learned a foreign language
a few years ago but didn't keep up with it, you'll have to
relearn the vocabulary to understand it again. Well,
you brain has to relearn the "new sounds" it is
hearing with hearing aids. This can take weeks or even
months. The more you wear your hearing aids, the better
your brain will get at interpreting the signal.
expectations. Even the best hearing aids can't
repair dead inner ear hair cells or completely get rid of
background noise. You may never be able to hear as well
as you once did, but the benefits hearing aids will bring
can improve the quality of your life.
of the Ear
above, the auditory system is divided into three distinct parts.
Each of these has an important role to play in the process off hearing.
Outer Ear - This is composed of:
Pinna: This is the most visible part of
the auditory system. It catches the sound waves and aims
them into the internal mechanisms of hearing. If the pinna
is missing or damaged, sound waves may not be collected
Auditory Canal: This structure simply conducts
the sound waves to the internal structures. Obstructions
in the auditory canal, such as significant wax buildup
or foreign bodies in the canal can significantly reduce
the ability to hear.
Tympanic Membrane: Also called the
ear drum, this structure vibrates in response
to the sound waves striking it and transfers these vibrations
to the middle ear. Hearing may be affected
if the ear drum is ruptured or diseased.
Middle Ear - This is made up of:
Ossicles: These three bones are the
smallest bones in the human body. They are most commonly
referred to as the Hammer, the Anvil,
and the Stirrup. Their job is to take the vibrations
provided by the ear drum and transfer them to the organ
of hearing, the cochlea. Damage to these bones can
affect the transmission process and, thus, result in diminished
Eustachian Tube: This is a small hollow
pathway that runs from the middle ear to the back of the
throat. It's primary function is to help maintain
a balance of air pressure on both sides of the ear drum.
Although not directly involved in the hearing
process, hearing can be affected if this tube is blocked
or becomes infected since the ability to maintain balanced
air pressure may be compromised. If you have
ever descended quickly in an elevator or flown in an airplane,
you may have noticed that your hearing is diminished significantly
until you swallow and clear your Eustachian tube and restore
equal air pressure to the middle ear.
Inner Ear -
Cochlea: This is the main organ
of hearing. it contains tiny receptors which take
the vibrations sent to it from the ossicles and converts
them into electrical signals which are then sent via
the auditory nerve to the brain where they
are interpreted as sound. Damage to, or disease
of the cochlea can have the greatest impact on the ability
Semi-Circular Canals: Although these
play no part in the hearing process, these canals play
a very important role in maintaining balance and bodily
orientation. Persistent vertigo or dizziness may result
from damage or disease to these canals.