What is Hearing Loss?

Hearing loss is something that may take place at any age, for any individual, and for any number of reasons. But what really is hearing loss? Hearing loss occurs when there is a problem with one or more parts of the ear, the nerves coming from the ears, or the hearing part of the brain. Additionally, someone who has hearing loss might be able to hear some sounds or nothing at all, depending on the severity.

How the Ear Works

To best understand how hearing works, it’s beneficial to know what takes place within the ear itself. The ear is actually made up of three different sections: the outer ear, middle ear and the inner ear.

Outer Ear
  • The outer ear, or Pinna, picks up sound waves and helps direct them into the Ear Canal.
Middle Ear
  • After this, the sound travels through this canal and begins to stimulate the Eardrum.
  • The Eardrum then vibrates and begins a domino effect between three tiny bones in the ear – these are the Hammer, Anvil and Stirrup. Side note: these are the smallest bones in the body!
Inner Ear
  • The vibrations that take place between these bones then travel into the Cochlea.
  • The Cochlea is made up of some liquid and thousands of little cilia (hair cells). As vibrations come in, the hair cells begin to move.
  • This movement is then picked up by your brain via the eighth cranial nerve, and interpreted as hearing.

Hearing Loss

So what is hearing loss? There are actually a few different types of hearing loss!

Conductive Loss – Takes place when something is blocking sound in the outer or middle ear. Wax build-up, ear infections, and/or problems with the tiny bones in the middle ear can be common causes of this type of loss.

Sensorineural Loss – Takes place when there are issues within the inner ear, rather than the outer or middle ear. This typically happens when the tiny hair cells (cilia) in the cochlea are damaged. Often sensorineural loss is hereditary or due to noise exposure and aging.

Mixed Loss – Is a mixture of a conductive and sensorineural loss.

Central Loss – Then happens at a deeper level on the auditory nerve. With this type of loss, the ear is actually functioning appropriately, but parts of the brain are not interpreting sounds at a functional level.

What Causes Loss?

There are many reasons why a person may not be able to hear, with the most common causes of hearing loss including:

  • Heredity
  • Age
  • Noise Exposure
  • Head Trauma

Although these are the most common causations, there are many other factors that can play a role in hearing loss. Hope Hearing & Tinnitus Center would love to help. If you suspect you have a hearing loss and feel that you could benefit from a hearing evaluation, please do not hesitate to contact us today.