How Hearing Loss Occurs
Hearing loss is a broad term to cover any form of disabling hearing issue that affects how well you can hear things. This can mean that there is a structural issue within your ear that causes your hearing to be affected, or maybe there are issues deep inside your ear connected to the nerves that create these issues. Millions of people are born with hearing problems, but many more also develop hearing loss as they age.
Hearing loss can occur at many levels, from very mild to severe to not being able to hear anymore, which is known as deafness.
No matter the form of hearing loss you’re living with, there are some important parts of the ear you need to know. We’ll work from the outer ear inward. These parts of the ear include:
- Auditory canal: Known as your ear canal, it moves sound from the outside through to your eardrum.
- Eardrum: This vibrates when you hear sound, sending the waves to the ossicles.
- Ossicles: These are three little bones—known informally as the hammer, the anvil, and stirrup—that transfer sound to the cochlea. They’re the smallest bones in the human body, but damaging them can cause severe hearing loss.
- Cochlea: A fluid-filled, spiral-like membrane that transforms sound waves to signals that get passed on to the brain.
- Vestibulocochlear nerve: The nerve that sends sound waves to the brain, it has two parts: the vestibular nerve (relates to balance and your equilibrium) and the cochlear nerve (relates to hearing).
Millions of people are born with hearing problems, but many more also develop hearing loss as they age.
Now that we know those, let’s dig into what happens when they are affected. There are two main forms of hearing loss:
Conductive Hearing Loss
This occurs when you have issues with the outer ear and middle ear, which include the ear canal, eardrum, and ossicles. It’s the less common form of hearing loss, and even though it can develop into a permanent issue, it is more easily treatable than the other.