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How we hear and types of hearing loss

A happy little girl holds an object to her ear and listens to it

Sound waves vibrate the air which then travel down the ear canal to the tympanic membrane (the ear drum). The vibrations travel across the ear drum and along the bones of the middle ear to the inner ear (the cochlea).

Vibrations initiate the hair-like cells in the cochlea to send nerve impulses to the brain, which interprets these nerve messages as sound.

What causes a hearing loss?

Anything that reduces or prevents the sound signal before it reaches the brain causes some level of hearing loss. Hearing loss can be mild, moderate, severe or profound.

The types of the hearing loss can be described as:

  • Conductive hearing loss is a problem with the outer or middle ear. This can be temporary or permanent
  • Sensorineural hearing loss is permanent and can occur if the cochlea (inner ear) isn’t working properly
  • Mixed hearing loss: when conductive and sensorineural losses occur together

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