Hearing and Hearing Loss The auditory (hearing) system consists of three sections, each with very important purposes. The first section is the outer ear which includes the pinna and external ear canal. The outer ear protects the rest of the ear from foreign objects, it also amplifies sounds that are collected, and helps us to determine which direction sounds are coming from. The middle ear is an air filled space that begins at the eardrum. The eardrum vibrates to incoming sound which results in the movement of three small bones (the malleus, incus and stapes) attached to the eardrum. At the end of the stapes is the oval window, an opening into the fluid-filled cochlea, or organ of hearing. The cochlea is the auditory portion of the inner ear. It is from here that sound is transmitted to the auditory nerve. A problem in any one of these areas may cause either a conductive, sensorineural, or mixed hearing loss. Conductive means there is a problem in the outer ear or middle ears, such as excessive ear wax in the ear canal, fluid or infection in the middle ear, or perhaps a hole in the eardrum. It is usually medically treatable.
With sensorineural, there is a problem with the cochlea or auditory nerve due to aging, noise exposure, or family history. It is usually treated with amplification devices. Rarely, it is caused by a benign tumor, in which case, surgery is necessary. When there is both a conductive and sensorineural loss, it is considered to be mixed. If you or a loved one thinks you may be experiencing a decrease in hearing, contact your physician or audiologist.
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Published on Jan 29, 2012