How Does the Ear Work? |

The ear is comprised of three parts: the outer, middle, and inner ear. Each part plays its own unique and vital role in hearing.

The outer ear includes the pinna, ear canal, and eardrum. Sound is channeled in to the middle ear via these structures. The design of the pinna, or outermost visible part of the ear, is to gather sound waves and direct them down the canal towards the eardrum.

The middle ear is comprised of the three smallest bones of the human body. When sound reaches the eardrum, the eardrum vibrates which in turn causes movement of the tiny bones in the middle ear, also known as ossicles. The sound is then mechanically transmitted through to the inner ear.

The inner ear converts the sound to an electrical impulse. The movement of the ossicles causes movement of inner ear fluid, stimulating hair cells (cilia) in the cochlea. This impulse then travels along the auditory nerve (8th nerve) to the brain.

A problem in any site along this transmission can result in hearing loss. Type of hearing loss is determined by which part of the ear is not functioning properly.

What are the signs of hearing loss? |

  • Hearing conversation but not understanding it
  • Ringing or roaring in the ears
  • Increasing the volume of the radio or TV to the point that others complain
  • Difficulty hearing in background noise
  • The need to frequently ask others to repeat themselves
  • Feeling that people are mumbling when they are talking
  • Avoiding social settings and withdrawing from conversations
  • Avoiding talking on the telephone because the volume is inadequate

Other reasons to have your hearing tested include

  • Pain in the ear
  • Sudden onset hearing loss
  • Unexplained dizziness
  • Pressure or fullness in your ears
  • Chronic ear infections

What are the types of hearing loss? |

There are three types of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, and mixed.  The type of hearing loss is determined by where the deficit lies in the hearing system.  A simple hearing test can indicate which of the following types of hearing loss you have:

Sensorinerual hearing loss results from damage to the inner ear (cochlea) and/or the hearing nerve.

Conductive hearing loss is a blockage of the sound from being conducted along the hearing pathway.  The hearing loss is typically generated in the outer or middle ear, meaning the cochlea and the hearing nerve underneath are working properly but do not receive adequate signal/sound transmissions.

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of sensorineural and conductive type hearing losses.

What are the causes of hearing loss? |

This important question can be almost always be answered by a routine hearing test.  There are three general categories of hearing loss: sensorineural, conductive, or mixed type.  There are many underlying causes and treatments for each type of hearing loss.

Sensorineural – This is the common type of hearing loss as we get older.  There are many causes of sensorineural hearing loss including age, genetic predisposition, medicines, abnormal development, noise exposure, tumors, and infections.  Sensorineural hearing loss is typically treated with hearing aids, but occasionally antibiotics, steroids, or even surgery is necessary.

Conductive – Examples of conductive hearing loss include, wax, fluid behind the eardrum, disease, and abnormal middle ear bones. This is usually a problem with the middle ear or outer ear and is treated by hearing aids, surgery, wax removal, or medicines.

Mixed – Mixed hearing loss represents a combination of sensorineural and conductive hearing loss.  This hearing loss can be treated a number of different ways.  CornerStone’s healthcare providers will discuss all your treatment options with you.