Accessibility Tools

Bethel Park, PA  •  Jefferson Hills, PA

About Your Hearing

How our hearing system works

earSound vibrations are funneled down the ear canal where they strike the eardrum. When the eardrum vibrates, the 3 tiny bones (called ossicles) in the middle ear space move to the rhythm of the vibration. The last ossicle in the chain sits in an oval window leading to the inner ear, where the hearing organ is located. That ossicle moves like a plunger in the oval window, causing the fluid in the inner ear to move. The movement of the fluid causes the tiny hair cells in our hearing organ to move.  It is the movement of the hair cells that generates nerve impulses that travel up the brainstem and into the auditory portion of the brain, where we make sense of sound.

Causes of hearing loss

Conductive hearing loss occurs when there is a problem that prevents sound from reaching the inner ear.  Common causes of this type of hearing loss are impacted earwax, perforations in the eardrum, ear infections, fluid in the middle ear, and malformation of the outer or middle ear. Treatment for a conductive hearing loss is often medical or surgical in nature. In some cases, the hearing loss cannot be corrected and hearing aids are recommended. Someone with conductive hearing loss may be a good candidate for a Baha. Click here to read more about the Baha.

Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common type of hearing loss. It occurs when there is damage to the hearing organ or hearing nerves. The tiny hair cells that transmit electrical signals to the nerves become damaged. They bend or break off, leaving fewer healthy cells to react to sound. Common causes of sensorineural hearing loss are aging, noise exposure, hereditary hearing loss, and drugs that are toxic to the ear. Treatment for almost all sensorineural hearing loss is hearing aids.

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of conductive and sensorineural hearing loss. Treatment varies according to the cause.

Benefits of hearing aids

Traditional hearing aids are especially beneficial for people with sensorineural hearing loss. Sound needs to be louder because there are fewer healthy hair cells in the hearing organ to transmit signals to the nerves.  Hearing aids that have been programmed by an audiologist for your hearing loss, amplify the pitches that coincide with your damaged hair cells.  Digital hearing aids do more than just amplify sound.  They can be programmed to help reduce background noise and make sounds more comfortable for you.

It is important to keep in mind that hearing aids will not give you back “normal hearing.” The physical damage to your inner ear will distort sound as it travels up to your brain, and there is no hearing aid that can repair that damage. However, it is important to present the best signal possible to your ears to achieve maximum benefits.

Hearing aids have benefits beyond simply improving your ability to hear. The National Council on the Aging (NCOA) found that hearing aid users reported improvements in their personal relationships, mental health, sense of safety, and self-confidence!