It is a complex process of picking up sound and attaching meaning to it. The ability to hear is critical to understanding the world around us.
The human ear is a fully developed part of our bodies at birth and responds to sounds that are very faint as well as sounds that are very loud. Even before birth, infants respond to sound.
So, how do we hear?
The ear can be divided into three parts leading up to the brain – the outer ear, middle ear and the inner ear.
• 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.
• Movement of the fluid in the inner ear, or cochlea, causes changes in tiny structures called hair cells. This movement of the hair cells sends electric signals from the inner ear up the auditory nerve (also known as the hearing nerve) to the brain.
WHAT IS AN AUDIOLOGIST?
Audiologists are health-care professionals who evaluate, diagnose, treat, and manage hearing loss, tinnitus, and balance disorders in newborn, children, and adults. Audiology is a well-respected and highly recognized profession. Audiology has been ranked by U.S. News and World Report as one of the Best Careers in 2006, 2007, and 2008
HOW DO AUDIOLOGISTS SUPPORT THEIR PATIENTS?
Audiologists are also involved in the hearing conservation or the prevention of hearing loss, through auditory training, counselling, guidance and the provision and fitting of hearing protective devises such as noise plugs
WHAT DO AUDIOLOGISTS DO?
Audiologists measure the volume at which a person begins to hear sounds and the person's ability to distinguish between sounds. Also, before determining treatment options, they evaluate psychological information to measure the impact of hearing loss on a patient. Treatment options vary and may include cleaning wax out of ear canals, fitting and checking hearing aids, or fitting and programming the patient with cochlear implants to improve hearing. (Cochlear implants are tiny devices that are placed under the skin near the ear in an operation. Cochlear implants deliver electrical impulses directly to the auditory nerve in the brain so a person with certain types of deafness can hear.) Audiologists also counsel patients on other ways to cope with profound hearing loss, such as learning to lip-read or using sign language.