How the Auditory System Works and Hearing Loss

The human body relies on these senses: sight, smell, touch, taste, and sound. Each sense has a different method of perception that aids the body in interacting with the environment.

The sense of sight is perhaps the most important of all five senses because it allows everyone to see their surroundings and interact with them daily. For example, people might use their sight to read a book, drive a car, or watch television. Sight is also essential for learning and developing our intelligence.

The sense of smell allows us to perceive scents in the world around us. Detecting odors helps with survival because it can be used as an early warning system against predators or dangerous situations such as sight. Lastly, there’s sound. This is probably the most underrated sense, but most people don’t think about how hearing works until they lose it. Understanding how your auditory system works can help you appreciate the gift of sound and why it’s essential to protect your hearing.

How People Hear

Sound is created when something vibrates. This vibration causes waves in the surrounding air. These waves travel into your ear and cause your eardrum to vibrate. The vibrations are passed on to three tiny bones in your middle ear, which amplifies the sound and passes it on to the cochlea – a snail-shell-shaped organ filled with fluid. Inside the cochlea are thousands of tiny hair cells. These hair cells turn the sound vibrations into electrical impulses and send them along to the brain, where they are interpreted as sound.

A woman trying to hear something

Hearing Loss Among People

There are two types of hearing loss: conductive hearing loss and sensorineural hearing loss.


Conductive hearing loss happens when there’s a problem with your ear canal. Many different things can cause it, including excess wax in the ear canal, a perforated eardrum, infection or inflammation in the middle ear, a foreign object in the ear, Benign tumors (noncancerous growths), or stiffness in the ossicles. Treatment for conductive hearing loss will depend on what is causing it but may include medication, surgery, or wearing a hearing aid.


Sensorineural hearing loss is caused by damage to the inner ear, auditory nerve, or brain. It is usually permanent and caused by damage to the inner ear (e.g., from loud noise exposure), auditory nerve (e.g., as a result of Meniere’s disease), or brain (e.g., from a stroke). In some cases, sensorineural hearing loss can be treated with medication or surgery, but usually, a person will require a hearing aid.

Hearing Aids

A hearing aid is a small electronic device that amplifies sounds so that a person with hearing loss can communicate better with those around them. There are many different types and styles of hearing aids available today, including behind-the-ear (BTE) aids, in-the-ear (ITE) aids, receiver-in-the-canal (RIC) aids, and completely-in-the-canal (CIC) aids. Your audiologist will help you choose the type of aid best for you based on your specific needs and lifestyle.

Your auditory system is complex, but understanding how it works can help you appreciate all the incredible things you hear daily. If you think you might have hearing loss, it’s essential to see a doctor so that they can determine what type it is and treat it accordingly. Additionally, follow these tips to ensure that you never experience hearing loss again.

Keep Your Ears Clean

Foreign objects may damage your auditory system, so keeping your ears clean is essential. This means not sticking cotton swabs or other objects into your ear canal and regularly removing ear wax using a safe at-home method (such as over-the-counter drops). Additionally, you should get your ears cleaned by a professional annually. An ear microsuction service can provide deep ear cleaning to remove impaction and wax buildup that you may not be able to reach. They use high-powered medical suction devices to ensure your ears are clean and healthy.

Avoid Loud Noise

Noise-induced hearing loss is one of the most common types of permanent hearing loss, so protecting yourself from loud sounds is essential. This means avoiding rock concerts, sporting events, and other situations where you will be exposed to loud noises for long periods. If you can’t avoid loud sounds, it’s important to wear earplugs or other protective gear to minimize your exposure and reduce the risk of hearing loss.

Take Care of Your Overall Health

Your overall health also impacts your hearing, so it’s essential to maintain a healthy lifestyle by eating right and exercising regularly. This will help you avoid hearing loss and also improve your overall well-being.

Although hearing loss is a serious condition, it doesn’t have to limit your quality of life. With the right treatment, support, and tools at your disposal, you can continue to enjoy all the things that matter most in life with ease.​

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