The sense of hearing is a very important part of our life. Hearing allows us to communicate with others and is our connection to the environment. Unfortunately, problems can arise with this very important sense which can negatively affect our way of life. An individual with a hearing disorder can resume a normal way of life through proper testing and treatment. A hearing disorder can occur anywhere along the auditory pathway. There are three parts of the ear: outer, middle, and inner.
The outer ear begins at the visible part on our head, the appendage that holds our earrings and glasses on our face, and consists of the ear canal. This portion of the ear is used to catch the sound and direct the sound to the eardrum. If a blockage occurs in the canal due to excess ear wax or a foreign body (pea or bead) the sound can not travel down the canal which can cause a hearing loss. Once the blockage is removed hearing usually returns to normal.
The middle ear begins at the eardrum and holds the three smallest bones of the body as well as the muscles and ligaments that support these bones. A hearing loss can occur in the middle ear if the eardrum or bones of the middle ear are damaged. Also, fluid can fill the middle ear space which can lead to a more serious condition if left untreated. Damage to the eardrum and bones can be corrected through surgical procedures. Middle ear fluid can be resolved through the use of medicines or if medicines do not dry up the fluid the placement of tubes in the eardrum will resolve the problem.
In the inner ear sits a snail shaped object (cochlea) that is fluid filled and contains hair and nerve cells that sense the sounds. The delicate hair or nerve cells can be damaged through sound exposure, viruses, genetics as well as other sources. Usually, damage to the hair cells can be helped through the use of hearing aids. At this time it is not possible to fix or repair the damaged hair cells. It is very important to correctly identify the cause of the hearing disorder so proper treatment can occur and to prevent further damage and problems.
Identifying Hearing Disorders
A hearing problem can arise in any of the three areas of the ear and at any point in the process. Identification of the type of hearing disorder requires special testing by professionals specially trained in ear and hearing disorders. Without the appropriate testing a simple problem can evolve into a very serious condition. The Head & Neck Center, P.C. has the necessary equipment and experienced professionals to identify the cause of your hearing disorder. The tests that you undergo will be determined by the problems that you present with and the professional staff at the Center. Below is a description of the diagnostic tests performed at the Head & Neck Center, P.C.
Otoscopy is the visual inspection of the external auditory canal and eardrum. This determines if there is any blockage of the canal and the status of the eardrum.
Comprehensive audiometric evaluation is one of the basic studies performed at The Head & Neck Center, P.C. This includes evaluating the hearing through the use of tones via air and bone conduction to determine the status of the peripheral auditory system. Further, words are also used to determine how the brain is utilizing the information it is receiving.
Analysis of the middle ear. This test is used to examine the status of the middle ear structure (eardrum, bones of the middle ear, and muscles of the middle ear) and space.
Otoacoustic emissions is a test to determine how the outer hair cells of the cochlea (hearing organ) are functioning. This computerized test is performed automatically without the participant having to do anything. OAE testing is very useful in testing the hearing of very young children. Auditory brainstem response is an electrophysiological test that determines the integrity of the auditory nerve and brainstem.
The cause of the hearing disorder will determine how your problem is treated. Some hearing problems can be resolved through the use of medicines, removal of the blockage, or surgical intervention. Some hearing disorders can be helped through the use of hearing aids and a hearing rehabilitation program. Some require a combination of medical intervention, hearing aids, and a rehabilitation program. If your problem requires medical or rehabilitation intervention, the professionals at The Head & Neck Center, P.C. can help you!