How Hearing Works

How Normal Hearing Works

In a normal hearing ear the sound enters the opening of the outer ear and hits the ear drum causing it to vibrate. The vibrations cause the bones of the middle ear to move and transfer the sound to the cochlea. The cochlea is a shell shaped structure in the inner ear which houses the hair cells. These hair cells are stimulated and cause electrical impulses in the hearing nerve which travel to the brain and are registered as sound.

  • A hearing loss can occur if any of these processes are impaired.
  • A hearing loss can have different severities ranging from mild to profound.
  • A hearing loss can also have different causes.

Types Of Hearing Loss

Conductive Hearing Loss

A conductive hearing loss can be either temporary or permanent. It can occur due to a problem in the outer or middle ear which prevents sound reaching the hair cells in the cochlea. It can be caused by ear wax, fluid in the middle ear (‘Glue Ear’), a hole in the ear drum, infection or a genetic defect. A conductive hearing loss can usually be treated by a medical procedure.

Sensorineural (Nerve) Hearing Loss

A sensorineural hearing loss is permanent and occurs as a result of damage to the hair cells in the cochlea or the auditory nerve. The cause of a sensorineural hearing loss can be age related, infection, head injury, noise exposure or genetic. The only treatment for a sensorineural hearing loss is the fitting of a hearing aid.

Mixed Hearing Loss

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss, which means there is damage in both the outer or middle ear and in the inner ear.

Impact Of Hearing Loss

Most hearing losses occur gradually over a period of months or years and thus the symptoms are often difficult to recognise.

Problems Faced By Patients With A Hearing Loss:

  • Reduced hearing sensitivity
  • Reduced speech discrimination in quiet
  • Impaired speech discrimination in noise
  • Impaired music recognition
  • Tinnitus
  • Reduced discrimination between environmental sounds
  • Difficulty locating exactly where the sound is coming from

Hearing Loss Checklist

  • Do people sound like they are mumbling?
  • Do you regularly ask people to repeat themselves?
  • Do you often mix up what people are saying?
  • Do you turn the TV or radio up very loud?
  • Do you struggle to follow conversation in group situations?
  • Do you find loud sounds uncomfortable and quiet sounds unclear?
If any of the above apply to you, you should make an appointment with us for a hearing assessment. Hearing loss affects both you and the people around you.

However, if a hearing loss is properly identified and effectively treated it can greatly improve your quality of life and that of those closest to you. At Audico, our Clinical Audiologists will carry out a full hearing assessment and determine if there is a hearing loss and depending on the extent of the loss, will advise on its management.

Modern hearing aids have many features which combat many of the problems outlined above, allowing the wearer to participate in all aspects of life more easily.


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