How the Ear Works

Most of us take our hearing for granted, much like our senses of sight, taste, smell and touch. But how would you feel if you couldn’t hear the world around you anymore?

Hearing is a hugely important aspect of our lives and should be enjoyed for as long as possible, however in this modern era, amplified noise can seriously impact the quality of your hearing.

As your trusted hearing specialist in London, our expert team want to go back to basics and enhance your understanding of hearing, hearing loss and the purpose of hearing aids. What better way to start your journey of understanding about hearing than a with an explanation of how the ear works?

Sounds are invisible vibrations that travel through the air all the time, whether it’s the rustle of the leaves, a car driving in the distance, or someone speaking. These are known as sound waves, which every individual will register differently. Our ears take these sounds and convert them into messages for our brains. The functionality of our ears completely depends on the quality and clarity of the captured messages, when they are sent to our brains.

Your ears consist of three sections: the outer, middle and inner ear. The outer ear captures sound waves and directs them to the middle ear. The outer ear is the first part that sound waves encounter and directs them through the ear canal, to the middle ear.

The sound waves then reach the middle ear and hit the ear drum, causing it and the ossicles (three tiny bones) to vibrate. The ossicles act to turn these sound waves into mechanical pressure waves that can then be transferred via the bone chain to the inner ear fluids.

These vibrations cause tiny hair cells in the spiral shaped inner ear, otherwise known as the cochlea, to detect the movements and convert them into signals for the hearing nerve.

The last stage of the hearing process is when the hearing nerve transmits these electrical impulses of information to the brain, where they can finally be interpreted as sound.

Hearing Loss – What are the Signs?

Hearing loss can occur when a specific part of the ear isn’t working as well as it should be, preventing information from being processed correctly. It can happen gradually, without you even noticing at first, or occur quite suddenly. There are two main types of hearing loss, depending on which part of your ear has been affected or damaged: sensorineural hearing loss and conductive hearing loss.

Sensorineural hearing loss has its root in the inner ear, as sound waves are not transferred to the hearing nerve. It can also indicate that the hearing nerve itself isn’t passing on the information properly, or not sending anything at all to the brain.

This can be caused by:

  • Ménière’s disease
  • Old age
  • Exposure to loud noises

Conductive hearing loss is associated with the outer and middle ear, when soundwaves are prevented from travelling to the inner ear. The sensation can be likened to plugging your ear, resulting in muffled, sounds that can only be heard if loud enough, with little to no background noise.

It can be caused because of:

  • Middle ear infections
  • Perforated eardrums
  • Benign tumours
  • Trauma or malformation of outer or middle ear, like otosclerosis

General early signs of hearing loss can include any of the following:

  • Difficulty hearing clearly and misunderstanding what people say, especially in noisy places
  • Having to ask people to repeat themselves
  • Listening to music or watching your TV with the volume higher than other people need
  • Difficulty hearing on the phone
  • Struggling to keep up with conversation
  • Fatigue or stress after being pushed to concentrate harder while listening

 

Hearing Loss – Getting the Diagnosis

When faced with the possibility of hearing loss, the best advice we could give you would be to contact your local ear clinic and get booked in for a hearing check or consultation. This is the best way to measure your decibels hearing level (dBHL) to get an accurate diagnosis of how severe your hearing loss is. You can read more about our hearing tests here.

 

Hearing Loss Treatments

Depending on the results of your hearing test, your audiologist could suggest various  solutions, ranging from ear wax removal to hearing aids, to alleviate your symptoms.

In the meantime, remember that you can always help your hearing from succumbing to permanent damage by protecting your ears, whether that means turning the TV volume down, wearing ear defenders if you work in a noisy environment, or at a live music concert, or wearing noise cancelling headphones to block outside noise, so your music can be enjoyed at a lower volume.

Visiting Our Ear Clinic in London

If you think you might be suffering from hearing loss or would like advice about which hearing aids would suit your needs best, feel free to visit our ear clinic in Camden, London. We stock and fit world class Phonak hearing aids and provide services for hearing checks, consultations and ear wax removal. Contact us directly on 0203 962 1340 or request your appointment online today!