At Home with Chris Jessen 2018 - 110

▲ G E N E R A L H E A LT H

7,000

THE NUMBER OF
PEOPLE WITH A 'BIONIC
EAR' (KNOWN AS A
COCHLEAR IMPLANT) IN
THE UK, ACCORDING TO
DEAFNESS RESEARCH UK

CAUSES OF
PERMANENT LOSS
GETTING OLDER

It is estimated that of people aged over
70 in the UK, 71.1% have some kind of
hearing loss. One of the reasons is that
tiny hairs inside the ear that help us
hear die and do not grow back.
According to Action on Hearing
Loss, although there is no cure, modern
hearing aids can make a huge difference
to quality of life.
SUDDEN SENSORINEURAL
HEARING LOSS (SSHL)

SSHL is a rapid loss of hearing either
within a few hours or over a period of
up to three days. It is caused by damage
to the pathway between the inner ear
and the brain (due to a tumour, skin
growth, infection or other illness) and is
classed as an emergency.

The ear consists of three parts: the outer, middle
and inner ear. As sound waves enter the ear, the
eardrum vibrates. These vibrations then pass on
to three small bones (ossicles) inside the middle
ear where they are amplified before passing to the
inner ear. Tiny hair cells inside the inner ear move
in response to the vibrations and this movement
produces an electronic signal that is sent to the
brain via nerve endings. The brain then converts
these signals into sounds.

causes of temporary hearing loss and
occurs when exposure to sudden or
constant loud sounds causes damage
to the sensitive structures in the inner
ear. If the exposure is continuous
and untreated, the loss may become
permanent. Hearing aids can help.
PERFORATED EAR DRUM

A sudden tear or rupture in the
eardrum caused by an untreated ear
infection or by prodding something
110 | FEBRUARY 2018

into your ear can perforate the ear
drum. It may be accompanied by
pain and blood draining from the ear.
Around 80% of cases clear up within
three days without any treatment but
in some cases it may be necessary to
carry out surgery to repair the rupture.
SENSORY STRUCTURE DAMAGE

The sensory structures of the inner
ear, auditory nerve pathway or auditory
nerve in the brain may get damaged
by infections, drugs, injuries or
tumours. Infections can usually be
successfully treated with antibiotics
and it may be possible to repair
structural damage with surgery.

Trauma-induced hearing loss includes
permanent loss caused by exposure
to extremely loud noise - such as an
explosion, airbag discharge or gunshot
- or by injury to the ear or head.
Depending on the severity, you may
be able to recover some hearing with
a hearing aid or cochlear implant -
also known as bionic ear - which is a
surgically implanted electronic device
that stimulates the cochlear nerve.
OTOSCLEROSIS

This is an abnormal growth of bone
in the middle ear and occurs mostly in
young adults in their 20s and 30s. This
bone prevents the ear from working
properly and can lead to hearing loss.
For some people, the hearing loss
may become severe and is usually
treated through the use of hearing aids
or surgery. The condition can be genetic
(and can flare up in pregnancy). If one
of your parents has it, you have a 25%
chance of getting it; if both your parents
are affected, your risk goes up to 50%.

WORDS: SIMON HARGREAVES, IMAGES: GETTY IMAGES

TRAUMA

HOW THE EAR WORKS



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