How we hear the world around us!

How we hear the world around us!

Understanding how we make sense of sound!

Helen Keller once said: "Blindness separates us from things but deafness separates us from people".

Indeed, hearing is one of the primary senses that we use to communicate. Without it, conversations become difficult; relationships can become strained; the ability to appreciate music and pleasant sounds is lost. Hearing also helps to keep us safe. The function of hearing is quite interesting and the anatomy is complex. Amusingly, the only part of the ear you see serves very little purpose.

The Workings of the Ear

The outer part of your ear or the pinna helps only to funnel or collect sound and to boost the volume slightly. Once sound is collected and the outer ear funnels it down to the eardrum. Here the eardrum, if working properly, absorbs sound and amplifies it through small bones. The middle portion of the ear can be a common place for ear infections. Any hearing loss for adults from this portion of the ear is rare and requires medical attention. Finally in the fluid filled area of the inner ear, known as the cochlea, thousands of tiny hair cells that are tuned to specific pitches are waiting to respond. If these cells are working properly the sounds we hear around us are clear and crisp. Having two properly working ears helps provide a stereo like effect and ensures better hearing amidst background noise. However, if these cells are damaged, hearing loss can result and speech will sound unclear and potentially distorted or muffled. The impact of this hearing loss is worse when listening to unfamiliar sounds or voices, particularly if there is significant background noise, or when there is a distance between someone speaking and the person listening. This type of hearing loss requires properly fitted hearing aids to allow you to hear and enjoy the world around you.

how does hearing work, audiology, hearing, inner ear, middle ear

The Impact of Hearing Loss

As I communicated last month, untreated hearing loss has been linked to social isolation, memory loss, and depression. It is easy to see how untreated hearing loss can negatively impact one’s overall quality of life. By getting properly fitted hearing aids you can improve quality of life. The purpose of this column is to provide some education regarding hearing health to the residents and health care community of Kitchener-Waterloo. I hope you find them interesting and if you have any questions please email me at  You may also click on the "Ask the Audiologist" button below.

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Process of Hearing Animation