HEARING AND SOUND
THE ANATOMY OF THE EAR
An ear’s anatomy is made up of the following parts:
– the external ear (auricle) (see the below shown image)
– the middle ear (tympanic): malleus, incus, and stapes (see the below shown image)
– the Inner ear (cochlea) (see the below shown image)
Sounds are picked up by the ear and amplified by the outer and middle ear. This is the “mechanical” component of the ear. The sound is then conducted to the inner ear which contains about 15,000 sensitive cells (inner and outer hair cells). These cells then emit a stimuli signal to the brain via the auditory nerve.
What are the first signs?
– “I often ask people to repeat what they are saying, especially when there many people around, particularly if there’s background noise”.
– “I cannot hear soft noises such as bird singing, the ticking of a clock or little sounds like a car’s dashboard”.
– “I do hear but I do not understand everything”.
– “When watching TV my entourage tells me that the sound is way to loud”.
WHAT COULD BE THE CAUSES?
The natural aging of the ear involves partial disappearance of the hair cells in the inner ear. First, high frequencies are affected by this deterioration process and later medium and low frequencies may also experience a similar degradation. In general noise may cause hearing loss, especially after long and intense exposure to sound. In this case, the cells of the inner ear may not recover from such damages.
Other forms of exposure to sound may also cause hearing alterations, although occasionally they may only be experienced temporarily. There are many situations for which an ENT specialist can treat various conditions by either prescribing an appropriate treatment or by recommending a suitable ear operation. Unfortunately, this is not always possible. In this case the doctor will prescribe hearing aids which may help to recover hearing abilities.