How You Hear

The Basics of Hearing

Sound travels as invisible waves in the air. Hearing begins when those invisible waves enter the outer ear and travel down the ear canal. The Outer Ear includes the portion of your ear which you can touch.

When sound waves travel to the end of the ear canal, they will hit the eardrum and create a vibration. The eardrum is the beginning of the Middle Ear. The Middle Ear is composed of the eardrum and three small bones, known commonly as the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup. The vibration created by the eardrum moves the hammer, which moves the anvil, which finally moves the stirrup. The translation of these vibrations changes the pattern of the sound waves as they are transmitted to the Inner Ear.

The Inner Ear contains the cochlea. The cochlea controls balance translating sending the sound vibrations to the brain. It converts the sound waves it receives into electric nerve pulses that travel to the brain via hair cella. The brain allows you to hear because it identifies sound as speech or music and beyond. The entire process of receiving sound waves to sending it to the brain happens instantaneously.

How we hear is such a complicated and fascinating process. The group MED-EL has created an informational video that explains the hearing process. Click the video below to watch.

Hearing aids improve the hearing and speech comprehension of people who have hearing loss that results from damage to the tiny sensory cells in the inner ear, called hair cells. This is called sensorineural hearing loss. The hair cell damage can occur as a result of heredity, disease, aging, loud noise history, or even certain medicines.

The greater the damage to a person’s hair cells, the more severe the hearing loss. So the more the damage, the greater the hearing aid amplification needed to make up the difference. There are some (very few) hearing losses that can not be treated with hearing aids. We have treated many patients who were written off as permanently deaf by our competitors. The very deaf person may need a cochlear transplant, about 1% of the hearing impaired, which we refer back to your physician.