How The Ear Works

The ear is a complex, specialized organ responsible for hearing. The ear also plays an important role in balance. It is comprised of three sections: the outer ear, which includes the auricle and ear canal; the middle ear, which includes the eardrum and the three smallest bones in the human body (malleus, incus, and stapes); and the inner ear, which includes the cochlea and nerve pathways to the brain. The auricle, which is composed of the visible cartilage and skin on the outside of your ear, acts like a satellite dish, collecting sound waves that then travel through the ear canal and cause vibrations in the eardrum. The vibrations are then transmitted and amplified by the middle ear bones, or ossicles. This mechanical energy is then transmitted to the inner ear, where they are relayed to a snail-shaped organ called the cochlea.

What causes hearing loss?

There are many causes of hearing loss:

Age - Known as Presbycusis or nerve damage. It occurs very gradually so sometimes it is unnoticeable and it usually occurs in the higher frequency range.

Noise Damage - Hearing loss can result from a single incident or prolonged exposure to military and sport fire arms, industrial and home machinery, or music.

Diseases/trauma - Menieres Disease, otoscleroris, outer ear or ear drum injuries, tumors, birth injury, skull fractures, viral infections.

Medication - Large doses of aspirin, some forms of antibiotics, diuretics, and chemotherapy can cause hearing loss.

Earwax - A build up of earwax in your ear canal can cause hearing loss until it is removed.

High Risk Factors to Hearing Loss

  •   Heart Disease
  •   Thyroid Problems
  •   High Blood Pressure
  •   Multiple Sclerosis
  •   High Cholesterol
  •   Exposure to Loud Noises
  •   Diabetes
  •   Ototoxic & Herbal Medication
  •   Family History
  •   Tinnitus (ringing in the ears)

For unbiased answers regarding hearing loss visit Better Hearing Institute.

What are some symptoms of hearing loss?

Recognizing the Signs of Hearing Loss

If you think someone you know might have a hearing loss, take a look at this list of common signs. Do any of the following sound familiar?

  •   They appear to hear people talk but have difficulty understanding some of the words
  •   They're constantly asking people to repeat themselves
  •   They have a hard time understanding women and children's voices
  •   They have a hard time understanding in a crowd
  •   It's hard for them to understand on the phone
  •   They prefer one ear over the other
  •   They complain of a ringing sensation in one or both ears
  •   They often appear uncomfortable in social occasions they used to enjoy
  •   They seem withdrawn, depressed or irritable
  •   Other friends or family members have noticed their difficulty hearing

Can my friends and family help me with my hearing loss?

Yes. You and your family can work together to make hearing easier. Here are some things you can do to help:

Tell your friends and family about your hearing loss. They need to know that hearing is hard for you. The more you tell the people you spend time with, the more they can help you.

Ask your friends and family to face you when they talk so that you can see their faces. If you watch their faces move and see their expressions, it may help you to understand them better.

Ask people to speak louder, but not shout. Tell them they do not have to talk slowly, just more clearly.

Turn off the TV or the radio if it does not have to be on.

Be aware of noise around you that can make hearing more difficult. When you go to a restaurant, do not sit near the kitchen or near a band playing music. Background noise makes it hard to hear people talk.

Working together to hear better may be tough on everyone for a while. It will take time for you to get used to watching people as they talk and for people to get used to speaking louder and more clearly. Be patient and continue to work together. Hearing better is worth the effort.

Do I have a hearing problem?

Ask yourself the following questions. If you answer "yes" to three or more of these questions, you could have a hearing problem and may need to have your hearing checked by an audiologist.

  •   Do I have a problem hearing on the telephone?
  •   Do I have trouble hearing when there is noise in the background?
  •   Is it hard for me to follow a conversation when two or more people talk at once?
  •   Do I have to strain to understand a conversation?
  •   Do many people I talk to seem to mumble (or not speak clearly)?
  •   Do I misunderstand what others are saying and respond inappropriately?
  •   Do I often ask people to repeat themselves?
  •   Do I have trouble understanding the speech of women and children?
  •   Do people complain that I turn the TV volume up too high?
  •   Do I hear a ringing, roaring, or hissing sound a lot?
  •   Do some sounds seem too loud?

Hearing loss video

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