Functions of the Ear
Hearing sounds and words depends on a chain of events and can be impaired or lost through an interruption or a fault in the chain. The chain starts at the visible part of the ear (external) which carries vibrations in the air (sounds) to the ear-drum.
Its function is to collect sounds and feed them into the ear. Animals can prick up their ears to increase the sounds going into them, the human has to cup his hand to his ear to achieve the same effect. The middle ear then transmits vibrations of the drum through a series of tiny bones to the inner ear, where the vibrations are translated into nerve impulses.
The auditory nerve transmits these impulses to the brain where they are analysed and recognised as sounds.
The inner ear is an extraordinary complicated mechanism and the medical profession still admits to not fully understanding how it works. Basically, it is composed of fluid and a thin membrane of tiny hairs which are housed in the cochlea and connect directly to a multitude of nerve endings which join together to form the auditory nerve.
This is where sounds are recognised. A note played on a piano may be the same as a note played on a violin but the brain through the inner ear can recognise the difference.
Hearing loss caused by problems in the external and middle ear can be cured. However the main cause of hearing loss especially as the years go by is trouble in the inner ear.
Deafness and Loss of Hearing
If you can hear sounds then your are not deaf. As long as you have some hearing, even if it is a severe hearing loss then something can be done to make it better. Deafness is a separate issue so do not despair.
Adult Problems with Hearing
Fundamentally, wax is secreted to protect the ear. Initially tiny white droplets form to provide a barrier to infection and stopping foreign bodies that may accumulate in the ear.
The white droplets harden and turn colour to yellow or brown and take on the wax like appearance. Wax should be left alone and never dug out with a match or hairclip. If you are worried about heavy wax build-up then you should see your doctor.
This is quite rare and because it involves a loss of hearing and tinnitus (ringing in the ears) it is thought to be a hearing problem. However it differs from a loss of hearing complaint because the patient will without any warning, suffer dizziness and loss of balance accompanied by nausea and vomitting.
The patient has to put to bed and when the disease is in remission normal hearing will return. The doctor should be summoned to treat this serious but rare disease.
Sudden Hearing Loss
Again, it is rare for someone to have a sudden and apparently total loss of hearing. It can happen after a severe cold or after landing in a plane.
Hearing is often restored with time, but if it doesn’t, then you should see your doctor.
This deserves the utmost sympathy. It is a ringing or a noise in the ear and loud enough to interfere with everyday life. It can be continual. Some people suffer so badly that they would rather lose their sense of hearing by undergoing an operation than continually suffer from tinnitus.
However this is not the answer to a problem which is still not properly understood. Some of the severest cases are in patients with no hearing at all in the affected ear.
Treatment should sought from a doctor and hearing aids can be used to mask the sounds.
Loud sounds from engines, gunfire, disco music, can produce noise induced deafness. A sudden blast can rupture the ear-drum but much more harm is done to the inner ear by loud and continuous sounds which a person can feel he or she is accustomed to. The damage is done to the tiny hair cells in the cochlea.
Noise damage will increase the chances of hearing loss in later years.
Hearing aids can alleviate the problem.