How do we hear?

Our ear is comprised of 3 main components: Outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. Sound travels in waves and passes from the outer ear to the ear drum. From the ear drum, sound is sounded via 3 small bones of the middle ear (malleus, incus and stapes). The sound wave is then amplified and passes into the inner ear, and conducted through fluid.

Inside the inner ear, the nerve cells translate the vibrations into electrical signals that are transmitted to the brain. From there, we interpret these signals as sound.

Causes of hearing loss

Common causes of hearing loss include:

  • Damage to inner ear
    This may be as a result of aging or long term exposure to noise which causes the nerve cells to become damaged

    It can also be as a result of certain medications
  • Build-up of ear wax
    Ear wax buildup and impaction can make it difficult for sound waves to be conducted into the ear.
  • Ear infection
    Infection of the outer and the inner ear and disrupt conduction of sound and result in hearing loss
  • Rupture of the eardrum
    The eardrum can be damaged due to external trauma, infection and sudden changes in pressure. When this occurs, the conduction of sound is affected

How about hearing loss in children?

Hearing loss in children can occur and will be discussed in another section.

How can I prevent hearing loss?

Hearing loss due to long term loud noise exposure can be prevented and minimized.

  • Use proper hearing protective devices (such as ear plugs) to reduce the intensity of noise
  • Avoiding situations with loud noise exposure, such as rock concerts and live firing
  • Go for regular hearing tests if your work involves long term loud noise exposure