Causes of Hearing Loss
The ear is divided into three sections: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Hearing loss can occur in any of these sections for different reasons.
The Outer Ear:
The Pinna and the Ear Canal with Ear Drum at the end
The Pinna is the part of the ear on the side of our head that funnels sound into the ear canal. Hearing loss in this area is usually caused by a blockage in the ear canal. The blockage can be from excessive wax, a foreign body or an ear infection in the ear canal. The blockage causes hearing loss because it keeps sound from getting thru to the middle ear. These problems are typically easily solved by a visit to your family or ear doctor.
The Middle Ear:
An air filled cavity that contains the smallest bones in the human body
The middle ear’s job is to amplify the sound coming from the outer ear. When the ear drum vibrates it moves the tiny chain of bones (the malleus, incus and stapes) which push the sound vibrations thru to the inner ear. Hearing loss in the middle ear can be caused by a middle ear infection, a disarticulation of the bones or stiffening of the bones. These issues can usually be treated by an ear doctor. If not, hearing aids are of great benefit.
The Inner Ear: The cochlea
The inner ear transmits the sound received from the middle ear to the brain. There are tiny hair cells along the entire length of the fluid-filled cochlea. When fluid in the cochlea is displaced by sound waves, the hair cells bend. This triggers a chemical response that transmits the message to the area of the brain in charge of processing and interpreting what we hear. Hair cells are very delicate and are easily damaged by loud sounds and/or prolonged exposure to loud sounds. Also, our natural maturing process and some medications can cause hearing loss in the inner ear. Inner ear hearing loss cannot be reversed but can be largely overcome with hearing aids.