Interactive Ear - Click on an area of the ear to find out more.
Sound travels into the ear in waves, or vibrations.
The Outer Ear "funnels" sound vibrations to the tympanic membrane (eardrum). Blockage of the outer ear can lead to conductive hearing loss.
The Tympanic Membrane, otherwise known as the eardrum, vibrates when the sound waves hit it. If the eardrum is not vibrating properly then hearing will be affected. This is a conductive hearing loss.
The Middle Ear contains the three smallest bones in the human body; the malleus, incus, and stapes. Otherwise known as the hammer, anvil and stirrup due to their shapes. The malleus attaches to the tympanic membrane, so when it is vibrated by sound the vibration is passed through the chain of bones and on to the oval window. Fluid can build up in this area due to a blockage of the eustation tube. This causes conductive hearing loss. The three bones can become detached through a traumatic incident, or fused through disease, also causing conductive hearing loss.
The Eustation Tube is responsible for keeping the middle ear healthy. It connects to the throat and drains excess fluid. Blockage of the eustation tube results in a middle ear infection due to build up of fluid, this causes conductive hearing loss.
The Oval Window is where the stapes joins to the cochlea. This is the border of the middle and inner ear.
The Inner Ear houses the cochlea and the semicircular canals.
The Cochlea is a fluid filled spiral. It converts the vibrations delivered through the oval window into electrical signals which it delivers to the auditory nerve. Different parts of the cochlea are responsible for the hearing of different frequencies (pitches). Damage to the cochlea results in sensorineural hearing loss and can be caused by noise exposure.
The Auditory Nerve delivers the electrical sound signals from the cochlea to the auditory processing area in the brain where they are interpreted.
The Semicircular Canals are not related to hearing. They are part of the vestibular system. The vestibular system is responsible for balance.
Preventing Hearing Loss
Here are some simple steps you can take to protect your hearing:
- Always use hearing protection when participating in noisy activities, e.g. mowing the lawn, trimming hedges, using power tools etc. Use ear plugs, ear muffs, or both in extremely loud situations.
- If you come across loud noise in unusual situations when ear protection is not available e.g. road works or construction sites; use your hands to protect your ears. Some protection is better than none at all.
- Keep music at a reasonable level. This is especially important if you are listening through headphones or in the car, as enclosed spaces accentuate noise levels.
- Do not put small objects such as cotton buds or hair pins etc, into your ears. These can damage the sensitive skin in the ear canal, or the eardrum itself. If you are bumped or get a sudden fright the implement could pierce your eardrum causing serious long term damage.
- Get regular hearing checks if you work in a loud environment or participate in noisy activities.
- If you or anyone close to you suspects you have a hearing loss, see a specialist immediately.
Sounds louder than 80 decibels can damage your hearing. Some common sounds and their decibel levels are:
- Rock concerts, Firecrackers - 140 decibels
- Chainsaw - 110 decibels
- Wood shop - 100 decibels
- Lawnmower, motorcycle - 90 decibels
- Busy city traffic noise - 80 decibels
- Normal conversation - 60 decibels
- Refrigerator humming - 40 decibels
- Whispered voice - 20 decibels
Types of Hearing Loss
Hearing loss comes in many forms and can have many causes. The two main types of hearing loss are "conductive" hearing loss and "sensorineural" hearing loss.
"Conductive" hearing loss involves damage to, or a blockage of, the ear canal and/or middle ear cavity. This can be caused by numerous factors including, ear infections, fluid retention in the middle ear cavity or trauma that damages the structures within the ear.
"Sensorineural" hearing loss affects the structures of the inner ear and/or auditory nerve. It can be caused by things such as prolonged exposure to loud noise.
A person can have a mixed hearing loss in which both conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss are present.
Another common hearing complaint is Tinnitus.
Tinnitus is a condition where there is a sustained buzzing, ringing or hissing heard in the ears. Tinnitus is often accompanied by hearing loss and is thought in many cases to be due to damage to the auditory system.
Solutions to Hearing Loss
Any of the hearing problems listed above can be treated or compensated for by our team of knowledgeable and professional clinicians.
Our clinicians utilise a range of the very best technological devices to ensure that your needs are met effectively and efficiently in a stress free environment. Our team of highly trained professionals will ensure that you gain the maximum hearing possible to enhance your enjoyment of everyday life.