Most of us take our hearing for granted—until we start to lose it. Understanding the structure of the ear and how it works can help you protect your precious hearing.
The ear has three parts: the outer, middle, and inner ear.
Comprising the outer ear are the pinna and the ear canal. From the pinna, sound enters the ear canal. Certain pitches are important to understanding human speech are amplified here. At the end of the outer ear is a membrane called the eardrum.
Beyond the eardrum, we enter the middle ear. Connected to the eardrum is a series of three tiny bones called ossicles, otherwise known as the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. The middle ear also has one end of the Eustachian tube, which leads to the nose and throat. This tube equalizes pressure when there is a change in atmospheric pressure (like in an airplane or under water).
Vibrations from the eardrum are transmitted and amplified through the ossicles to an oval window at the cochlea. The cochlea is part of the inner ear. Conductive hearing loss refers to problems with this process. Wax buildup, holes in the eardrum, or ear infections typically cause conductive hearing losses.
Within the inner ear, vibrations received by the cochlea stimulate tiny hair cells, which are translated into nerve impulses. These are picked up by the acoustic nerve and sent to the brain.
Many things can go wrong within the fragile inner ear. Loud sounds can damage the hair cells, reducing their number. Diseases, viruses, infections, and normal aging can also damage the inner ear. Problems with the inner ear are called sensorineural hearing loss, which affects our sensitivity to sounds and ability to understand words.
Hearing loss is often either conductive, or sensorineural. Hearing loss caused by both conductive and sensorineural problems are termed mixed hearing losses.
Whatever the nature of your hearing loss, a trained audiologist can perform a painless assessment in less than an hour. Understanding the nature of your hearing loss will lead to the best method of treatment. The type and degree of your hearing loss must first be determined by an audiometric evaluation. Based on that test, an appropriate hearing aid or Assistive Listening Device (ALD) will be prescribed. An ALD can help when hearing aids alone cannot. This could involve hearing the phone ring, having a phone conversation, hearing the radio, television, doorbell, or alarm clock.
A wide variety of ALDs are available, from small personal systems to sophisticated systems used in theaters and auditoriums. Contact Audiology Innovations today to see how we can help you to rediscover life’s sounds!
Q. What is tinnitus?
A. People suffering from this common disorder often describe a ringing in the ears, or a hissing, roaring, whistling, chirping or clicking sound. It’s only heard by the perceiver; nothing in the outside world is creating such sounds. Those with mild tinnitus can usually function well without treatment. But when it reaches levels that interfere with life, it’s time to seek treatment.
Q. What causes tinnitus?
A. There are various causes. The inner ear structure is a highly complex, vast neural network that translates sounds into signals that the brain can perceive. Head trauma and ototxicity (hearing damage caused by certain medications) are two things that can affect the inner ear’s neural functioning.
Q. I have been told there is nothing that can be done for tinnitus. What has changed?
A. The Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment is relatively new. Research and development began in the early 1990s. Since the FDA approved the device used with Neuromonics, thousands of tinnitus sufferers worldwide have been treated with it. Knowledge has grown, technique has improved, to the point where 90% of those involved in recent clinical trials for Neuromonics have had their disturbance from tinnitus significantly reduced.
Q. What exactly is the Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment?
A. It is an acoustic-based treatment accompanied by a clinician’s personal assessment, monitoring, support, and education. The six- to nine-month treatment is comprehensive, non-invasive, and effective—and offers significant long-term relief from tinnitus disturbance.
Q. Six to nine months? Why does it take so long?
A. The treatment uses an acoustic signal that targets certain neural paths in the brain, “teaching” them to filter out your tinnitus sound. Those nerves “learn” gradually, over several months, but the results are long-term.
Q. Will the treatment interfere with my lifestyle?
A. You can easily live your normal life while undergoing treatment. The Neuromonics device is lightweight, compact, and can be used during most routine activities.
Q. I have a hearing aid. Can I still undergo the Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment?
A. Certainly. The Neuromonics device can be used independently of your hearing aid during quiet times—for example, while reading or going to sleep. Your clinician will work with you to determine the best timing. After completing the Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment, you could find that your hearing aid is actually more effective, as your sensitivity to loudness will likely improve. But please note: Hearing aids amplify sound. This could mask (or hide) tinnitus. However, that masking does not address tinnitus long-term. For tinnitus to be treated and improved, a new hearing evaluation is recommended to discover whether hearing loss should be treated with a hearing aid.
Q. Can I just purchase the Neuromonics device by itself?
A. No. The Neuromonics device is a Class II medical device, regulated by the FDA. First, a prescription from a trained clinician is needed to obtain one. Second, for the device to do its job, it must be supported, monitored, and continually evaluated through the Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment program. The Treatment is customized to each patient’s unique hearing and tinnitus profile. Scheduled appointments are necessary to ensure that the device is effective.
Q. What if the Treatment does not meet my expectations?
A. Results from your assessment will allow us to tell if the Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment is right for you. Once you begin the Treatment, you could begin to experience some relief within 1 to 30 days of your fitting appointment. If the Treatment does not meet your expectations, your clinician will take a multi-stepped approach to troubleshoot your situation, and adjust as needed. Through your usage data report, your clinician will monitor your device’s functions.
Q. Why can’t I just use my MP3 player?
A. Commercial music does provide a distraction from tinnitus. But it’s not a long-term treatment. The music used with the Neuromonics Tinnitus Treatment is spectrally modified, and contains a neural stimulus based on your audiological and tinnitus profile. The Neuromonics device is custom-designed to create frequencies that an MP3 player cannot achieve. The device provides acoustic stimulation that is part of the Treatment at comfortable, safe listening volumes.