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How We Hear

Hearing is one of our five senses. It is a process of picking up sound and attaching meaning to sound. The ear is fully developed at birth and infants are able to respond to very faint sounds, as well as very loud sounds.
The ear is divided into three parts prior to sending information to the brain. This includes the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.

  • The outer ear includes the pinna, ear canal and eardrum. The pinna is the part of the ear that we see and serves to collect and localize sound vibrations and guide the vibrations to the ear canal. Sound then travels through the ear canal, hits the eardrum and then causes the eardrum to move.  
  • The middle ear is an air filled space that includes three very small bones (the malleus, incus & stapes) that are connected to each other and are collectively attached at one end to the eardrum and at the other end to the inner ear. The movement of the eardrum causes the bones to vibrate which then causes movement in the inner ear.
  • The inner ear includes two functionally separate sections, the cochlea is the hearing section and the semicircular canals are the vestibular or balance part. The balance portion serves to help with the sense of acceleration/deceleration of both rotational and linear motion. The cochlea is a fluid filled bony coiled canal, which is shaped like a snail. The movement of the fluid in the cochlea causes the movement of tiny hair cells, cilia, in the cochlea. These hair cells respond to specific sound pitches and through their movement send electrical signals through the hearing nerve, auditory nerve, to the brain.   

The auditory processing centers of the brain then use the electrical signals to interpret the meaning of sound.

What is an Audiologist?

An audiologist is a university-trained professional who specializes in evaluating and treating individuals with hearing loss. Audiologists hold doctoral or masters degrees from accredited universities with special training in the prevention, identification, assessment and non-medical treatment of hearing disorders. Audiologist’s must complete a supervised internship, pass a national examination as well as maintain continuing education hours in order to be licensed and certified. This assures that the audiologist is current in the latest evaluation and hearing aid fitting and dispensing strategies. Audiologists are trained to determine the extent and type of hearing loss, fit and dispense hearing aid and refer to a physician if a medically related hearing problem is present. Audiologists conduct hearing evaluations utilizing specialized calibrated equipment in sound-treated rooms to obtain accurate results in regards to the hearing loss. The audiologist will evaluate the test results and the patient’s needs and answer any questions you or your loved ones may have to guide you to the next step to better hearing.

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