How Hearing Works: A Breakdown of Auditory Disorders

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woman hearing problems

Now that my cognitive abilities have been fully restored (that sounds about right), let’s return to our discussion on how hearing works, in particular auditory disorders.  Remember that audio information enters the outer ear, passes through the middle ear, on to the inner ear then goes along for central processing.

When individuals experience hearing problems, it can be caused by a myriad of circumstances.  Let’s review some of them and review potential causes. For starters, there are two types of hearing loss: conductive and sensorineural.

.:Conductive:.

Conductive hearing loss is due to damage to the external ear canal, eardrum, and middle ear.  Can result from blockage in external ear canal or disorder in middle ear’s ability to transmit mechanical energy to staple footplate.

Causes: Any condition or disease that impedes conveyance of sound in it’s mechanical form through the middle ear cavity to the inner ear.  Ear infections can cause conductive hearing loss however, it is usually mild, temporary, and treatable with medicine or surgery.

.:Sensorineural:.

 Sensorineural hearing loss is when sound reaches inner ear but cannot be translated into nerve impulses (sensory loss) or nerve impulses are not carried to the brain (neural loss).   Sensory and Neural hearing loss results from inner ear or auditory nerve dysfunction.

Causes: The sensory aspect may be from damage to organ of corti, the inability of the hair cells to stimulate the nerves of hearing, or a metabolic problem in fluids of the inner ear. The neural or retrocochlear (behind the cochlea) aspect may result from damage to the organ of corti that causes the hearing nerves to degenerate, it can also be from the inability of hearing nerves themselves to convey neurochemical information into central auditory pathways.

These impairments do not respond well to treatment and their damage is most often irreversible and permanent. Similar to conductive hearing loss, it can result in a reduced intensity of sound but sensorineural loss results in a distortion of what is being heard.

.:Mixed Hearing Loss:.

Mixed hearing loss is a combination of both conductive and sensorineural.

Causes: May be the result of severe head injury, chronic infection, or one of many rare genetic disorders.

.:Audio Processing Disorder:.

 Auditory Processing Disorder (ADP) otherwise known as, Central Auditory Processing disorder (CAPD), is not considered a type of hearing loss but is an umbrella of disorders that affect how the brain processes auditory information. It is the reduced or impaired ability to discriminate, recognize, or comprehend complex sounds, such as those used in words, even though person’s hearing is normal. Individuals with ADP usually hear well in quiet environments but experience issues hearing when noise is present. Electrical signals that come from sound waves into the ear and are sent to the brain arrive with delay or distortion which makes learning or memorizing difficult.

APD hearing cycle

From what we see here, issues with processing affects comprehension and memory but it also makes it difficult to pay attention.  This usually begins in childhood and can make it difficult for kids to learn and focus. So if you suspect your child is experiencing hearing issues, get it checked out at the earliest convenience.

Causes: Can be congenital (meaning you are born with it), links to recurrent middle ear infections, head injury, or trauma.

I created an infographic that fully breaks down the various disorders that affect hearing below:

auditory_disorders_infographic1auditory_disorders_infographic2

As of now, my hearing is still in tact.  Which is a glorious accomplishment if I think back to the decibel levels I’d play my music at when I was younger.  I’m also fortunate that in my family there is no history of hearing loss or auditory disorders, just the heavy stuff, like cardiovascular problems. If we refer to the reason I began exploring our hearing sense in the first place, it was due to a pal named Randy Marsh.  Now if we take into account that Randy can hear but is only affected in noisy conditions, I’d say that falls under auditory processing disorder. Essentially meaning that as you stated yourself Randy, you do have a brain problem.  I’m sure it comes in handy, especially within work settings: “What TPS report? I’m sorry I didn’t catch that try me next week.”

Do you or anyone you know have hearing loss or ADP? What have you learned this week?

Sources: Header Image1, 2, 3, 4, 5

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13 Comments
  • Tamara
    March 11, 2015 at 3:54 PM

    My mom has some hearing loss, which I suppose is normal when you’re in the 60’s and went to a TON of rock concerts in your teen years! You know.. Woodstock and all.
    My grandmother had hearing loss as early as I know!

    Reply
    • AwesomelyOZ
      March 12, 2015 at 8:11 AM

      That’s awesome -the Woodstock part. Not the hearing loss part. 😛 I don’t recall hearing problems in the problem, except just a loss of strength but that’s as they age. My mother struggles sometimes but Dominicans speak very, very loudly so I believe over time, her ears have just adapted to requiring a certain frequency of talk; I’m a low talker sometimes so it frustrates her and then I have to speak a lot louder to get to her level. Lol. 🙂 Have a great one Tam Tam! -Iva

      Reply
  • Jessica @ Independent Travel Cats
    March 12, 2015 at 1:36 PM

    Funny as Laurence and I were just having a conversation about hearing last night about why you can still hear if you have ear plugs in. My grandmother has significant hear loss but can hear much better with the use of hearing aids.

    Reply
    • AwesomelyOZ
      March 13, 2015 at 9:02 AM

      That’s a fun coincidence 🙂 Glad it aligned with a familiar topic of conversation. It’s a great improvement to quality of life when you are able to hear even after significant loss. I hope one day I won’t lose my hearing but it’s good to know that if I do, there are lots of solutions to that problem. I love music and to not be able to hear it would be devastating! Have a great one Jessica! -Iva

      Reply
  • MarlaJan
    March 12, 2015 at 4:13 PM

    Reading this made me feel like I was back in nursing school, it brought back a lot of things I’ve forgotten over the years. I did learn that lupus can cause hearing loss (who knew?), which I guess makes sense due to the effects is can cause to the neurologic system. My mom has significant hearing loss in her right ear, unfortunately due to abuse as a child, and in adulthood she developed a severe form of Meneries (I spelled that wrong) disease. She was treated with high doses of gentamycin ear drops (an aminoglycocide), and when she has spells, she will do another course of drops. My paternal grandmother had meiners as well, and I remember she always had to have the radio or TV on when she slept to tune out the constant ringing! This was a great post, learned a lot!

    Reply
    • AwesomelyOZ
      March 13, 2015 at 9:08 AM

      Oh you mean Meniere’s disease? Sorry to hear about your mom, an already devastating situation that leaves a life-long mark. Glad she is able to get the medication she needs and that it is helpful. Yeah Lupus is HORRIBLE! Hope it gets better and that medical science can come up with something sooner rather than later lovely. Glad to hear you learned a lot and that it reminded you of nursing school – that means it’s as educational as I intended it to be, haha. Hope you’re feeling better lovely!! Take Care lovely MarlaJan -Iva

      Reply
  • Yulunda G.
    March 13, 2015 at 11:00 PM

    Okay, this is very helpful as I have a colleague who is hard of hearing and wears an aid. However, I think he likes to pretend that he does not fully hear what your saying. One day as I was talking he said, “Did you just say you have a husband and a boyfriend?” Like he had a chance to take the boyfriend role.

    Now, when I go to work and engage him (I ask a lot of probing questions of everyone) about how, why and what, I will have a better understanding.

    This is so intriguing as the human body is so complex and intricate. And, the mere fact that we can hear at all with all we are exposed to is amazing.

    I am glad you’re feeling better my beautiful sister!

    Happy Friyay!

    Yulunda

    Reply
    • AwesomelyOZ
      March 16, 2015 at 12:42 PM

      Hope this was helpful then Yulunda 🙂 Ha I act like I can’t hear all the time but I like to think of it as selective hearing. It’s great for filtering out crap. Haha trying to slip one in!! Slick bastard huh. Get it!

      Yeah I mean it’s worth getting some background to better understand your colleague. It CAN be awkward to start the conversation but it is also helpful if you know how to better communicate with him.

      Yes it is super complex! Just wait for it, I’ll keep bringing covering different aspects on here. If you have anything you’d like to know in specific I’m also open to ideas so feel free to shoot me an email. Luckily, I never run out of ideas but it’s good to have my Evernote fully stocked!

      Thank you love!! Have a great week gorgeous!! -Iva

      Reply
  • Melanie
    March 15, 2015 at 10:27 AM

    This is really neat to learn about. Thanks for sharing!
    Melanie @ meandmr.com

    Reply
    • AwesomelyOZ
      March 16, 2015 at 12:42 PM

      You’re welcome Melanie! Take Care -Iva

      Reply
  • Charlotte
    March 16, 2015 at 11:42 AM

    This is so neat, Iva. I realize this might sound stupid, but I actually didn’t realize there were multiple types of hearing loss (I kind of just assumed it was an “as you get older” kind of thing). My grandfather (on my dad’s side, he has since passed) and my poppa both had/have severe hearing loss. It was a running joke in my family (though probably not a nice one) that we could tell whenever my grandfather was in the room b/c you could hear the high-pitched hum of his hearing aid. Then one year the dog ate it, I kid you not. LOL! Anyway, this is fascinating–thanks so much for sharing 🙂

    Reply
    • AwesomelyOZ
      March 16, 2015 at 12:44 PM

      Not stupid we’re just not always hip to everything that goes on, especially with our bodies. I didn’t realize that you could lose the ability to process auditory information without it affecting your mechanical hearing system. I didn’t stop to think “what if the brain is what stops working?” – so it was cool to see the different scopes of hearing loss and how they each play out in different parts of the ear.

      LOL! Can’t believe your dog ate your grandfather’s hearing aid, that’s insane! Thank God for replacements?! 🙂 It’s amazing how much they help! Have a great one love and glad you enjoyed this article Charlotte -Iva

      Reply
  • AwesomelyOZ
    May 29, 2015 at 5:54 PM

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    Reply

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