Your sense of hearing is a very complex process. It requires the synchronized action of various components of your body. As soon as sounds alert your auditory system, your body goes through many processes. These all work together to help you process and hear those sounds. Understanding how this process works is vital. Knowing what happens when you damage an area of your body can help you understand hearing loss.
The Hearing Process
Sound enters the outer ear in the form of pressure waves. Your ear’s unique design funnels the pressure waves into the ear canal and into the inner ear. These pressure waves first hit your eardrum. The eardrum vibrates the sound waves into three amplifying bones in your middle ear. These include the malleus, incus, and stapes.
Once all three bones amplify the sound, the last staped bone pushes open an oval window. This window is a membrane that separates the inner ear and the air-filled middle ear. When the sound waves reach the inner ear, they penetrate the fluid inside the cochlea. This transfers the airwaves into liquid sound waves.
Inside the cochlea, there are special hair cells. These convert the motion of the cochlea’s liquid into electrical signals. These signals then travel to your brain for interpretation.
The Brain Making Sense of Sound
The thalamus and brainstem work to compute the location and direction of the sounds. Inside your brain is its primary auditory cortex. This is where auditory neurons are at and work to respond to different frequencies.
There are different auditory neurons that are responsible for different components of sound. Cortical neurons respond to a sound’s intensity, change in frequency, and duration. Other neurons specialize in various combinations of tones. Others work to process rhythm, melody, and harmony. Thanks to your auditory neurons, you’re able to process a ton of auditory information. With that information, you can recognize a particular instrument or voice.
Hearing Problems and Your Brain
Damage to any one part of your hearing process can end up affecting your ability to hear. For example, the left side of your brain handles understanding and producing speech. When a person suffers a stroke, it can damage the left auditory cortex of the brain. While they may be able to hear speech, they’re no longer able to understand its meaning.
Another thing that audiologists witness on a regular basis is age-related hearing loss. This is often the result of hair cells in the inner ear not being able to regenerate. As more and more hair cells die off, you will experience a worsening ability to hear. Most older adults struggle to hear high-pitch noises.
Call Us Today
If you’re experiencing hearing loss, then it’s time to give us a call. Let our expert hearing care professionals assess your hearing abilities. We can help you choose the best treatment possible for your individual situation.