Hearing is one of the five senses. It is a complex process of picking up sound and attaching meaning to it. Having the ability to hear is important in understanding the world around us. The anatomy of our hearing system can be divided into four components. These divisions are the:
- The Outer Ear
- The Middle Ear
- The Inner Ear
The Central Auditory Pathways
- The outer ear consists of the ear canal and eardrum. Sound travels down the ear canal, striking the eardrum and causing it to move or vibrate.
- The middle ear is a space behind the eardrum that contains three small bones called ossicles. This chain of tiny bones is connected to the eardrum at one end and to an opening to the inner ear at the other end. Vibrations from the eardrum cause the ossicles to vibrate which, in turn, creates movement of the fluid in the inner ear.
- The inner ear has two divisions: one for hearing, the other for balance. The division for hearing consists of the cochlea and the nerve of hearing. The balance mechanism is also called the vestibular system. It too is made up of a series of fluid-filled compartments (three semi-circular canals and two larger divisions) that contain the sense organs for balance and movement.
- The central auditory system is a complex network of neural pathways in the brain that is responsible for sound localization, speech understanding in noisy listening situations, and other complex sounds, including music perception.
Our hearing systems anchor us to the soundscape of our environment with an incredible ability to detect and differentiate infinitesimally small acoustic cues. Our brains store the neural equivalents of acoustic patterns – voices, music, environmental sounds, danger signals – that make it easier to process and recognize both familiar and unfamiliar signals. Hearing loss misleads our brain with a loss of audibility and introduces distortion into the message that reaches the brain. Changes in the effectiveness of the brain to process stimuli, from head trauma, disease, or aging, can result in symptoms that mimic hearing loss. The ears and the brain combine in a remarkable way to process neural events into the sense of hearing. Perhaps it’s fair to say that we “hear” with our brain, not with our ears!
If you suspect that you or a loved one is experiencing hearing loss, give us a call at 901-415-6667 and the licensed professionals of the Shea Hearing Aid Center will gladly arrange for you to have a FREE hearing evaluation.