Hearing loss is extremely common, affecting about 48 million Americans today.
Understanding Healthy Hearing
Our auditory system is arguably one of the most complex systems in our bodies. The entire process is extremely complicated, happens in milliseconds, and continues working around the clock. This is why most of us wake up to auditory sounds rather than any of our other senses, because our ears are always on. In order to fully understand hearing loss, it is important to first know how healthy hearing works.
In order to hear each individual sound in our environment, the following process must occur:
Sound is collected by the outer ear and travels through the ear canal and towards the eardrum.
These sound waves cause the ear drum as well as three tiny bones located in our middle ear to vibrate and move.
These vibrations then cause a special liquid located in our spiral-shaped inner ear cochlea to also vibrate and ripple.
Tiny and delicate hair-like cells that are located on top of this liquid then also begin to bend and sway with the movement of the liquid.
When the tiny hair cells are moved in this manner, it causes then to transmit the vibrations into electric signals for the brain to later process.
These electric signals are then sent through the auditory nerve to the brain.
It is only at this point that the brain is able to process these electric signals into sounds that we recognize and understand.