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The way the ear works

The ear is one of the most important organs of the body, as it enables us to respond to the world around us. It is divided into three parts:

  • The outer ear comprises the auricle (the visible outer part), the eardrum and the ear canal. The outer ear captures sound waves and sends them into the auditory canal where they cause the eardrum to vibrate.
  • The middle ear consists of three small auditory ossicles that connect the eardrum to the inner ear. The vibrations in the eardrum cause the ossicles in the middle ear to vibrate.
  • The inner ear includes the auditory spiral or “cochlea”. Here, the sound is converted into nerve impulses which are then transmitted to the brain. The vibrations from the middle ear move thousands of hair cells in the cochlea. This movement is converted into electrical impulses, which the brain finally perceives as sound.

Hearing impairment is more widespread than you may think

Hearing loss is widespread – according to estimates approximately 15 – 20 % of the population in the industrialised world suffers from it. Age-related hearing loss occurs when the hair cells in the inner ear lose their flexibility over the course of a person’s life. Although the outer ear continues to capture sound waves as before and transmits them to the outer and middle ear, the inner ear is unable to pick up the sound vibrations and can therefore not transmit them to the brain.

The natural ageing process is, therefore, the most common cause of hearing loss, and as such perfectly normal.

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