November 14, 2014
You probably would not find it unusual for your primary physician to ask many questions regarding your health. We all know PCPs need to take a thorough history in order to fully diagnose and treat a problem or refer to an appropriate specialist. As audiology and hearing professionals, we often ask questions about seemingly unrelated health matters. This may include medications, trauma, systemic illnesses (such as diabetes), hypertension, infections, cancer and other factors. Why do we ask about conditions that may seem unrelated to ears?
To those of us charged with identifying, diagnosing and often treating problems of hearing and balance, the complexity of the hearing and balance system is well known. The act of listening involves the outer ear to collect sound, an eardrum and three middle ear bones to vibrate, an inner ear to convert mechanical vibrations into nerve impulses, nerve networks to organize and transmit the coded messages carried by these impulses, and the brain to interpret the sounds we detect. This system requires skin, bone, connective tissue, blood supply, specialized sense organs, nerves, neurotransmitters and well-organized brain regions.
Balance involves movement of fluid in the ear detected by specialized “hair cells”, a nerve network to transmit coded messages from the ear, central nervous system structures to interpret the messages, the muscular system to make appropriate adjustments in body position, the eyes to verify where we are or whether we are moving, stretch receptors in the skin to sense movement, our proprioceptive sense to determine where our joints are in space and even hearing to bring in information about our immediate environment.
With so many structures and tissues involved in the processes of hearing and balance, it is essential to collect information to allow us to rule out such a vast array of potential causes for disorders. It is another way we strive to be your clear choice for hearing and ear health.