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Hearing: The Remarkable Journey of Sound


We take hearing for granted, yet the process of hearing is complex and, indeed, quite remarkable.

Along with the other senses - sight, taste, touch and smell - our lives are richer, fuller and a lot more fun thanks to the ability to hear. But the thing is, we all (admit it) take healthy hearing for granted. When was the last time you had your hearing tested? When was the last time you wore hearing protection?

There are numerous causes of hearing loss, and although hearing loss to some degree is inevitable with aging, there are some causes of hearing loss you can avoid with some basic information.

How We Hear

You are watching the TV in the living room. Sound is coming at you from that 56-inch plasma shrine. Then, through that sound, in the distance, you hear your one-year-old crying down the hall. Let's follow that baby's cry.

When that child cries out, it creates a disturbance in the air. The disturbance is in the form of sound waves. The sound waves quickly reach you where they're captured by the outer ear, which acts like a dish antenna. The outer ear gathers sound waves and shoots them down the ear canal.

Sound waves travel down the ear canal where they set in motion the ear drum, also called the tympanic membrane in the textbooks.

The ear drum transfers this mechanical disturbance to the three smallest bones in the human body - the stirrup, the anvil and the mallet - named for their shapes. These tiny bones then transfer the sound vibration to the inner ear - the cochlea where thousands of hair cells are waiting to electrically stimulate the brain.

Once they reach the hearing centers of the brain you hear the sound and your brain sorts out a great deal of information instantly.

Your brain's memory immediately recognizes the sound as your infant's cry.

Finally, the brain reacts and you react by getting up to handle another change of diapers.

Hearing Loss

Hearing loss is a fact of life with one-third of the over 65-crowd experiencing some degree of hearing loss.

In the U.S. alone, 28,000,000 people experience hearing loss - that's almost one in 10 of us.

The process of hearing is complex, so it is no surprise hearing loss is also complex.

There are many different causes of hearing loss, as well as different types of hearing loss. The type of hearing is dependent upon where along the journey of sound there has been damage.

Although not all forms of hearing loss are preventable, many are which is why protecting your hearing and having overall good general healthy is important.

If you're 25 or 55, have your hearing tested regularly. The result will be a better listening experience, and a better living experience.

To learn more about how we hear and hearing loss, visit: The Remarkable Journey of Sound and Hearing Loss.

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