How Hearing Works

The Mechanics of the Ear: How Hearing Works


Having a basic understanding of how hearing works can make treating hearing loss a less stressful process. Look for a hearing care provider or audiologist who offers workshops, educational resources, or uses tools that provide the patient clarity and control over the quality of their care.

Below are the basic elements of how sounds are received and interpreted as hearing.

  • The outer ear collects sound waves and directs them into the external auditory canal.
  • The ear canal carries sound waves to the eardrum (tympanic membrane).
  • Sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate.
  • The bones in the middle ear (malleus, incus, and stapes) pick up vibrations from the  eardrum.
  • The bones in the middle ear amplify the sound and transmit it to the inner ear.
  • Vibrations pass through the oval window to the inner ear, setting the fluid inside the cochlea in motion.
  • Special nerve cells (hair cells within the cochlea) then turn the sound waves into electrical impulses.
  • The auditory nerve sends these electrical impulses to the brain’s central auditory cortex, where it is processed as sound.

Ringing in your Ears?

Are you hearing ringing, whistling, hissing, buzzing, or pulsing sounds?
You may be suffering from tinnitus. (Pronounced: tin-NIGHT-us or TIN-it-us.)

What is Tinnitus?

Tinnitus is a medical condition characterized by persistent ringing in one or both ears which can only be heard by the affected individual. It has also been described as whistling, hissing, buzzing, or pulsing in the ear.

These sounds may come and go; however, most experience symptoms 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The effects range from a slight annoyance to a severe disruption of everyday life. In fact, tinnitus is the number one complaint from United States Veterans and grows at 18 percent per year, and the American Tinnitus Association estimates that over 50 million Americans experience symptoms from tinnitus.

In many cases the distressing combination of tinnitus and hearing loss can be relieved with hearing aid technology. While worn, hearing aids can restore environmental sounds and help reduce the effects of tinnitus.

Other tinnitus treatment options are available through hearing care providers and audiologists including Tinnitus Retraining Therapy (TRT) and Tinnitus Retraining Instruments (TRI).

TRT combines low-level, steady background noises played through a device with counseling. It “retrains” the way a patient hears, helping them ignore the symptoms of tinnitus. TRI’s may be used in conjunction with TRT when deemed appropriate. These instruments fit within the ear and produce a faint but audible sound that can alleviate the symptoms of tinnitus.

Although there isn’t a single cure for tinnitus, many reputable hearing care providers and audiologists are experienced at providing individual solutions on a case-by-case basis. If ringing in your ears bothers you, please schedule an appointment with your provider to begin creating goals and solutions to improve your quality of life.

Hearing Loss – Source –

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