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A Deep Dive Into the Ear and How Hearing Aids Help You Hear

Hearing test showing ear of young woman with sound waves simulation technology - isolated on white banner

There is no shortage of amazing facts about the human body and its complexities. Here at Mission Hearing, of course, we focus on the intricate sound machines that are your ears and how they help you listen to that guitar solo, the chirping of birds, the honking of cars while you’re stuck in traffic, and all the other wonderful and not so wonderful sounds that help us form and experience our reality every day. 

Your brain interprets millions of sounds a day and even the distant sound of the neighbor’s dog bark activates what is our sense of hearing. So, let’s dive into the anatomy of the ear and how hearing aids actually help you hear. 

Properties of Sound – What Is It That We’re Hearing? 

Sound happens when air molecules vibrate and move through the air. Picture a very intricate and microscopic domino effect. The waveforms of sound form as vibrations push a single air molecule, which then causes another molecule to move, then the next one and the next one, etc. 

 There is a couple of things to note about sound: 

  • Sound is a form of energy
  • It is a longitudinal wave
  • It needs a medium to travel through
  • Its wave has several properties including amplitude (volume), frequency (pitch), and wavelength (speed). 

The Outer Ear – What You See is Only Half the Story 

Let’s start with the outer ear, which is where a hearing aid will be placed. This is the part of the ear that we all know and recognize. The outer ear consists of the Auricle (pinna), the bowl-shaped structure called the concha. The rim is the outer edge of the ear which leads to the lobule, which is where earrings go.  The concha ends at the external auditory meatus, commonly referred to as the ear canal. Between the outer ear and the middle ear is a very important part called the tympanic membrane. We typically refer to this as the eardrum. It is a thin, translucent tissue covered by skin and that acts as a gateway to the internal ear.

The Middle Ear – From the Outside World Into Our Brain 

The middle ear is also often called the tympanic cavity. This part of the ear contains the smallest bones in the body: the auditory ossicles. These tiny little bones are popularly known as the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup. Their anatomical name is the malleus, the incus, and the stapes, respectively. Picturing them as the hammer and anvil, however, can be useful to get a sense of how these bones work together to propagate sound. 

The Inner Ear – The Labyrinth That Processes Sound 

The internal ear is often called the labyrinth because it has a complex shape and it lies deep and behind the eye socket. There are a lot of delicate little components to the inner ear that need all the protection they can get, which is why they are hidden deep in there. 

How Does It All Work? 

Sound is vibrations. As these vibrations hit the air, they beat against the eardrum. This sets off a chain reaction of your ear and all of its little components to do their job. These vibrations will arrive at the ear, where the tiny bones will press fluid in the internal ear, stimulate the tiny hair cells, and stimulate the appropriate neurons. 

Hearing happens when sound waves move through the air, through membranes, into the bones, and fluids to stimulate receptor cells in the spiral organ of the ear. As the ear hits the inner hair cells, which are not actually hair, they generate an electrical signal. This electrical signal is then interpreted by the brain. 

Most hearing aids work by applying a similar concept in digital form. Most hearing aids have the same major components. This is the microphone, amplifier, receiver, and battery. The microphone is what picks up the sound and converts it to electrical or digital signals, the amplifier (as the name suggests) amplifies the sound and increases its power and strength. The receiver will then convert these signals into sound the hearer can interpret. The battery is, of course, the main power source for the system.  Together, they amplify sound through a three-part system: 

  1. The internal microphone will pick up sound and convert it into a digital signal
  2. The amplifier in the hearing aid will strengthen this signal
  3. The speaker produces this signal and transmits it into the inner ear 

Mission Hearing is Here to Help

Our sense of hearing is also very much tied to our sense of balance and equilibrium. Hearing aids also play a role in assisting patients with this. Today’s hearing aid technology is so much more lightweight, resistant, and conspicuous that many don’t even know it’s there. Here at Mission Hearing, we ensure that you get the hearing aid that you need and the one that best fits your lifestyle. 

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