N's Web Pages
1. HOW DO MY EARS WORK?
Ears are the organs of hearing
and balance. Looking at the picture below the ears have three
A) The outer ear B) The middle
ear C) The inner ear
Noise or soundwaves enter the
outer ear (the pinna and external ear canal) and are channelled
down the canal until they reach the eardrum. Once the soundwaves
reach the eardrum, it vibrates, and the soundwaves then pass into
the middle ear. The middle ear is an air-filled cavity that links
the outer ear with the inner ear.
Within the middle ear there are
three tiny bones stretching from the eardrum to the cochlea (our
hearing organ within the inner ear). It is these three bones that
mechanically conduct the soundwaves through the middle ear. Once
the vibrations of the soundwaves reach the cochlea in the inner
ear ear they are converted from mechanical energy to electrical
The cochlea is a fluid filled
chamber that looks a bit like a snail shell. When the soundwaves
enter the cochlea, the fluid moves and hair-like nerve cells
trigger electrical pulses in the auditory nerve. Different hairs
pick up different frequencies of sound depending on where they
are positioned in the cochlea. The auditory nerve then passes
electrical impulses to the brain which recognises them as sounds.
2. POSSIBLE CAUSES OF PERMANENT
Age-related hearing loss - more
than 50% of people over 60 have a hearing loss. This condition is
Noise exposure - prolonged and
repeated exposure to loud noise - at work or leisure can damage
Diseases of the ear -
infections of the middle ear or perforated eardrums can cause a
Genetics - About one in every
thousand babies is born moderately deaf.
3. DIFFERENT KINDS OF DEAFNESS
Conductive deafness - where
sound cannot pass freely through the outer or middle ear.
Sensorineural deafness - where
the cause of the deafness is in the cochlea or in the hearing
nerves. Other names for this kind of deafness include sensory,
cochlear, neural and inner ear deafness. Sensorineural deafness
often reduces the quality of sound as well as its loudness.
4. HEARING LOSS CHECK UP
The RNID (Royal Institute for
the DEAF) provide a free telephone hearing check service.
Just dial (UK) 0845 600 55 55 -
this five minute check will give you an indication of whether you
have any hearing loss.
The caller listens to each set
of three digits and then identifies them by pressing numbers on
the telephone key pad. Full instructions are included in the
call. Because the test relies on changing the level of speech
relative to noise, it is not affected by the fact that telephones
can differ in volume.
There are three potential
results from the sound check, indicating various levels of
hearing or hearing loss. Anyone taking the test wil be told what
they should do next. If it appears that there is some level of
hearing loss, you will be advised to go to your GP to get a
referral for a hearing test.
Why not join the RNID - it costs
from £12.50 a year. Visit: www.rnid.org.uk/join or call (UK) 0845 634 0679.
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Last updated: 18 July 2015
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