Essay: How the Ear Works, and what is done when hearing loss occurs

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  • Published on: January 12, 2020
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  • How the Ear Works, and what is done when hearing loss occurs
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What’s perceived so involuntary and done without thought can often be a mystery. Hearing is a major asset as part of our major senses that allows us to understand information, interact, and support our balance with our surroundings. For some, such as Marvel’s Daredevil, although he has no vision his heightened sense of hearing has allowed him to even see with his hearing. The ability to hear is done by the organ known as the ear. The ear provides for the special sense of audition.
Before our brain perceives what we hear it’s processed through different parts of the ear first. For infants the ability to hear is one of the first senses that becomes fully intact compared to the other senses which are still developing [1]. The ear is made up of three different section. This would include the outer ear, inner ear, and then the middle ear.
Audition begins in the outer ear, where sound goes through first. Both the eardrum, pinna, and the ear canal are present in the outer ear. The sounds waves are received by the pinna from the outside surrounding environment. The waves or vibrations goes through the external auditory canal towards the tympanic membrane.
As it travels to the tympanic membrane the sound vibrations allow for the eardrum to vibrate. This section of the ear is referred to as the middle ear. This section of the eardrum is an air filled cavity. The vibration of the ear drum are sent to the ossicles, which adjust the vibrations sent to the cochlea at the inner part of the ear. Malleus, incus, and the stapes otherwise known commonly as the hammer, anvil, and stirrup are what makes up the ossicles [2]. The fluid movement in the cochlea, promotes changes in the hair cells which occurs at the inner part of the ear as a result of the ossicles vibrating [4].
After the sound vibrations have reached the inner ear, it is transformed into an electrical impulse, which is then sent as a signal to the brain through the auditory nerve. The electrical signals at the inner ear are sent to the auditory nerve as a result of movement from the hair cells. This signal that sent to the brain is then translated into what we know as sound [5].
The ability to hear is not a given for all. Some people may need assistance in being able to produce those sound vibrations, which other people’s auditory system may process normally. People that have difficulty hearing may often be referred to a hearing aid device. The device amplifies the sound vibrations which are hear clearly by people without the device, but may not be heard by people who need the device. Hair cells within the ear are able to sense sound vibrations that are louder than usual, and transform them into electrical signals that are sent to the brain and processed as sound. The larger the damage to the hair cell’s in a person, the greater the hearing loss is. Depending on the magnitude of the hearing loss, will also determine the amount of amplification needed to allow for the hearing to reach a normal range. The downfall to this is that there are limitations as to how much you can amplify a sound through the hearing aid device. Also another factor is that if the inner ear is damaged to a certain point, then even with a hearing aid sound vibrations may not be able processed into electrical signals to be received by the auditory nerve [3].
Between different models the actual device itself consists of an amplifier, microphone, and a speaker. As the device in a person’s ear receives the sound vibrations with the microphone, the vibrations are transformed into electrical signals, which is then sent to the amplifier. With the amplifier the electrical signals are then sent to the ear by the speaker [3].
As a one of the major senses hearing becomes an important part how a person may go about their daily activities. To not be able, brings about an imbalance in our daily lives. The ability to communicate, understand, or receive information will become limited. With hearing aids the limitations of not being able to hear or having difficulty hearing are overcome. While an important sense, the anatomy and physiology behind the ear, shows how complex and interactive the different sections of the ear are as it processes different sound vibrations.

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