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The Middle Ear
The middle ear, an air-filled cavity, has the important job of transforming sound waves into vibrations. Between the outer ear and the middle ear lies the eardrum (tympanic membrane), which stretches tight across the ear canal. When soundwaves come into the ear canal, they hit the eardrum, causing it to move. When the eardrum moves, it sends vibrations into three tiny bones in the middle ear. These bones, the malleus, incus, and stapes (the smallest bone in the body), are collectively called the ossicles. The ossicles transmit vibrations to the inner ear.
In order for the middle ear to work properly, the air pressure on both sides of the body needs to be equal. The Eustachian tubes, which connect the ear to the back of the throat, help to balance pressure on both sides of the body. When you have a bad cold, the Eustachian tubes have a hard time draining fluid and balancing pressure, which is why your hearing can be muffled when you are sick.
The Inner Ear
In the inner ear, the vibrations from the middle ear are transformed into nerve signals that are sent to the brain for processing. The cochlea, a snail-shaped, fluid-filled part of the inner ear, is where vibrations are changed into nerve signals. The nerve signals then travel to the brain along the cochlear nerve.
Just above the cochlea, like antennae on a snail, are the semicircular canals. These three fluid-filled tubes control balance. Each canal is lined with tiny hairs. As you move, the fluid in the tubes splashes around, moving the tiny hairs. This provides information on the position of the body. The hairs send that data to the brain via the vestibular nerve. The brain then sends signals to our muscles, helping us to stay balanced.
If you are prone to motion sickness, you have the semicircular canals to thank. When they sense a lot of movement, but the eyes say we’re staying still (as on an airplane), the brain gets confused, resulting in nausea.
Hearing loss is classified into three types, depending on where in the ear the problem originates.
* Conductive hearing loss involves the outer or middle ear. In conductive hearing loss, something is preventing the sound waves from reaching the inner ear. The most common causes of conductive hearing loss are blockages from fluid, earwax or foreign objects in the ear, and ear infections.
* Sensorineural hearing loss involves the inner ear. Sensorineural hearing loss is most commonly caused by genetics, viruses and infections, exposure to loud noises, and as a side effect of some medications and other chemicals.
* Mixed hearing loss occurs when there is both conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss. Mixed hearing loss can happen as the result of a head injury, infections, or due to genetic disorders.
While some types of conductive hearing loss can be reversed, many forms of sensorineural hearing loss can’t be improved. However, if your hearing loss can’t be reversed, doctors and audiologists have many tools to help you manage hearing loss, including hearing aids, surgery, and training on how to minimize the impact of hearing loss on your life.
=> Protecting Your Ears from Hearing Loss
While you can’t do anything about your genetics, you can protect your ears from some kinds of hearing loss. Even if you already have some amount of hearing loss, protecting your ears will help prevent future damage, and keep your hearing as healthy as possible.
Here are a few steps you can take to help keep your ears healthy:
1. Don’t stick Q-tips or any other object in your ears. Your ears are self-cleaning and don’t require additional help. On occasion, earwax can build up and become uncomfortable or block hearing. If this happens, it’s best to see a doctor to remove it.
2. Keep your vaccines up to date. A number of common viruses, including measles and rubella, can cause hearing loss. Keeping your vaccines up to date helps protect you from these serious illnesses.
3. Protect your ears against loud sounds. Noise exposure is the biggest cause of hearing loss that you can control. Any time you have to raise your voice to be heard, the sound level is loud enough to damage your ears over time. Keep the volume low on your TV, music, and games, and wear ear protection in noisy environments. Most people know that factories, airports and construction sites may require hearing protection, but not as many people realize that bars, restaurants and subway stations can be just as loud. For example:
* 70 dB can damage hearing over 24 hours. Examples include vacuum cleaners (60-85 dB), freeway traffic (70 dB), and dishwashers (55-70 dB).
* 85 dB can damage hearing over 8 hours. Examples include lawn mowers (65-95 dB), noisy restaurants (85+ dB), and subway stations (90-115 dB).
* 115 dB can damage hearing in just 28 seconds. Examples include chain saws (120 dB), a symphony orchestra (110dB), rock concerts (120 dB), and gunshots (150+ dB).
If you have any questions about how to best protect your hearing on the job or while enjoying your hobbies, visit an audiologist. Audiologists can fit you with specialty ear protection that helps you hear the sounds you need to, while protecting you from dangerous sound levels.Other Details
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- Year Released/Circulated: 2021
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