Understanding the Ear and Hearing Loss


The ear has 3 sections:


Outer Ear: Pinna and Ear canal


Middle Ear: Ear Drum, Middle ear space, and the ossicles (malleus, incus and stapes)


The Inner Ear:  The Cochlea, The Vestibule and the Semi-circular Canals.

(The Semi-circular Canals are part of the Balance System)


Sound energy (vibration) travels through the air from a sound source

and is captured and directed into the ear canal by the pinna.

The sound travels through the ear canal to the ear drum, and vibrates the ear drum.

The vibration of the ear drum is transmitted through the middle ear space by the chain of ossicles  (the malleus, incus and stapes) to the oval window of the cochlea.


Vibration of the stapes at the oval window creates movement in the fluid inside the cochlea and stimulates the hair cells in the cochlea to produce electrical signals that travel up the auditory nerve to the brain.


Conductive Hearing Loss is caused by obstruction, infection or damage between the outer ear and the oval window of the cochlea. Sound is blocked before it gets to the normal Cochlea or Inner ear. Conductive Hearing loss is frequently treatable by medical or surgical means.


Damage in the cochlea or along the auditory nerve will cause Sensorineural hearing loss. This type of hearing loss is not repairable by medicine or surgery but often will benefit from hearing aids. Consult your pediatrician and audiologist.


Psst!   For a more detailed look at how hearing works, and hearing loss, see the following sites:






If your child isn’t responding to sounds or speech, what should you do? 

Contact your child’s doctor about your concerns. Ask to be referred to an audiologist, since even slight hearing losses can delay speech and language development. It is important that an audiologist test your child’s hearing because an informal check to see if your child responds to a hand clap, or his/her name in the doctor’s office will not detect slight hearing losses or hearing loss in only one ear.

An audiologist is a specialist trained to test hearing in adults and children. They have the skills and the instruments to identify the type and severity of hearing loss and make the recommendations for your child’s specific needs.  

A hearing screening test doesn’t hurt and it can usually be done quickly and easily during one visit to rule out a hearing loss for your child.

If your child’s hearing screening test suggests a hearing problem, your child will be sent back to his/her doctor to be scheduled for a more in-depth audiological evaluation to find out just how well your child hears.

Your child has a hearing loss, now what?

Your audiologist will explain your child’s hearing loss, its type and degree.

 Some hearing losses can be treated by a doctor; for example ear infections or middle ear fluid.

 Some hearing losses can’t be treated medically. Most of these sensorineural hearing losses can usually be helped with amplification


Studies have shown that early identification and treatment provide the best chance for developing speech and oral language. The earlier the better! The type and degree of your child’s hearing loss will help determine which treatment options are right for your child and you. There are different options for treating hearing loss depending on its type and degree. Your audiologist will discuss the various choices that are available.