Hearing loss is the result of a disruption in the transmission of sound through the auditory pathway. The auditory pathway in simplest terms can be broken down in to three areas; the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The outer ear is made up of the pinna and ear canal. The pinna is the visible portion of the outer ear. It collects sound waves and channels them into the ear canal. The middle ear consists of the eardrum and ossicles (three tinny middle ear bones), the malleus, incus, and stapes. The vibrations from the eardrum set the ossicles into motion to conduct sound to the inner ear. The inner ear consists of the cochlea and auditory nerve. Sound waves enter the inner ear via the oval window and then are transmitted to the cochlea, the organ of hearing. The cochlea is filled with a fluid that moves in response to vibrations from the oval window. As the fluid moves, nerve endings are set into motion. These nerve endings transform the vibrations into electrical impulses that then travel along the auditory nerve to the brain. The auditory or hearing center in the brain then interprets these impulses as sounds. A disruption anywhere along this auditory pathway can result in hearing loss. Symptoms In Children
  • Speech and language delay
  • Difficulty in school
  • Lack of attentiveness
In Adults
  • Muffling of speech and other sounds
  • Difficulty understanding words, especially against background noise or in a crowd of people
  • Trouble hearing consonants
  • Frequently asking others to speak more slowly, clearly and loudly
  • Needing to turn up the volume of the television or radio
  • Withdrawal from conversations
Causes of Hearing Loss There are multiple causes of hearing loss. They can affect the inner ear, middle ear, outer ear or a combination of multiple areas. Many of the most common are listed below. Inner Ear
  • Genetic and congenital abnormalities
  • Age related changes
    • 50% of US residents over the age of 65 have hearing loss
  • Noise exposure
  • Medications
    • Some antibiotics
    • Chemotherapy for cancer
  • Tumors or illnesses
Middle Ear
  • Ear infections/Otitis media
  • Eardrum perforation
  • Otosclerosis (abnormal formation of new bone in the middle ear)
Outer Ear
  • Ear wax
  • Absent ear canal
  • Infection
Diagnosis of Hearing Loss

The cause and severity of hearing loss is initially identified with a diagnostic audiologic exam completed by an audiologist. This evaluation will define the degree of hearing loss as well as it’s location in the auditory pathway. Audiologic findings are then corroborated with a medical exam by an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) physician. Hearing evaluations can be completed at any age, newborns to adults.

Treatment The treatment of hearing loss depends on the cause and severity. Surgery, medications, and hearing aids are all options. Your physician and audiologist will help to determine what treatment is most appropriate for you. To ensure that we are providing the most comprehensive hearing loss treatment available, our clinics are conveniently located in Eagan, Maplewood, St. Paul, and Woodbury. For hearing aid information, please refer to Midwest Hearing Aid Systems clinics. Our on-staff dedicated professional Doctors of Audiology (Au.D.) will discuss the best options for your hearing health.