June 4, 2019
You hear with more than your ears. We tend to think of the ears as the hearing organ of the body. This is reasonable. Our ears take in sound. The visible part of the ear acts as a funnel to direct sound waves inward. These waves cause vibrations in the middle ear and cause a fluid wave to travel through the inner ear. As we have explained in earlier articles, the inner ear transforms the mechanical sound waves into electrical signals that then travel to the brain.
The nervous system and brain have an enormous impact on hearing. Those impulses that travel toward the brain’s hearing centers make several stops along the way. The brainstem is at the top of the spinal cord and helps us organize the sounds we hear by loudness, duration and pitch. Parts of the thalamus then help connect hearing with other senses and brain functions. By the time the signals reach the auditory cortex of the brain, it has been largely decoded. The cortex of the brain can then apply recognition, memory and responses to the sounds, especially after years of experience. When a person does not hear well, it is natural to suspect a problem with the ears themselves. However, with the myriad of structures involved in listening, it is important to remember the roles the brain plays. Any condition that can affect nerves and brain can disrupt the chain of events we rely on for hearing. This is why diagnosis of hearing must take into account more than ear damage. The problem can be with the outer ear, middle ear, inner ear, or any part of the nervous system PAST the ear. A quick screening of hearing levels for a few tones is simply not enough. A thorough diagnostic evaluation is necessary to determine the BEST way to overcome hearing problems. Call to found out how to get started. As always, we want to keep you on a CLEAR PATH to good hearing and ear health.