Ear and their care guide
Ear Care: A normal human being starts life with acutely keen hearing – a sensory gift to be treasured because, without it, our technological society would be highly dangerous to live in. We would not hear the warning roar of approaching fast traffic or a cry of ‘lookout’.
If we needed to move quickly to avoid being hit by some falling object. And we would have none of the pleasures of listening to music, or the talk of family, friends, and colleagues. After a time, the lack of such audio experiences might even cause us to speak less intelligibly because we would not be able to hear the sounds we were making.
Children who are born deaf have considerable difficulty in learning to speak, and special tuition is necessary. So, how do we hear, and how can we protect this ability? In this respect, it may be helpful, first, to look at the illustration which shows how the ears are structured and how they function because this is essential to any real understanding of why and how hearing problems can arise.
The process of hearing (Earcare Guide):
Our hearing is so sensitive that we can distinguish about 370 changes in volume level and a staggering 2,000 variations in pitch.
- Our reception of the volume of sound depends on the amplitude of the sound wave – the greater the amplitude, the louder the sound we hear.
- Our reception of pitch is governed by the frequency of the sound – the higher the frequency, the higher the pitch we hear.
We can also distinguish the direction from which any sound originates:
- If the sound occurs directly behind, or directly in front of us, both ears will receive it in equal volume and the brain will interpret the signals to locate the source of sound accordingly.
- If the sound comes from one side of us, one ear will receive it more loudly and, again, the brain will interpret the signals, and, noting the difference in volume between them, will pinpoint the source of the sound.
Structure of the ear and Ear Care:
The external ear consists of the ear flap (pinna), and a curvy, tubular, skin-lined passage (the external canal) that passes on collected sound via the eardrum (tympanic membrane) which vibrates as the sound reaches it.
The middle ear (tympanic cavity) is a small bony cavity containing air and three tiny bones (ossicles) suspended across it which transmit the vibrations picked up from the eardrum to the:
The inner ear is a labyrinth of tubes containing the sense receptors: the cochlea for hearing; the vestibule to keep us the right way up, and the three semi-circular canals that enable us to maintain our balance.
Ear Care Guide: How to Care of The ears:
Keep the outer ear clean, of course, but never try to remove wax with a cotton bud, or prod your ear with any similar object. The eardrum is highly sensitive and you may push hardened wax even further into the ear canal, or do yourself other, permanent damage.
If you have any ear problems, go to see your doctor and get a proper diagnosis. If it is simply accumulated wax, drops can be prescribed to soften the wax and, after the drops have been used for a few days, the ears can be syringed by the doctor or an assistant. If the problem is more serious, treatment can begin without delay.
- If you are provided with ear muffs because you are engaged in particularly noisy work, be sensible and wear them.
- If you frequently listen to music and wear earphones for this purpose, keep the volume reasonably low. And if you use earplugs, keep them scrupulously clean to avoid the possibility of an ear infection.
- If you have any infection of the teeth or throat, don’t neglect it; otherwise, it may spread to your ears.
There are two main forms of deafness: the first is caused by a physical problem such as inflammation of the eardrum; the second results from damage to the nerves of the ear.
Conductive deafness is when the transmission of sound waves is affected by an abscess or inflammation of the eardrum; by a physical blockage such as can be formed by accumulated wax; or adhesion of the tiny ear bones in the middle ear, or gradual thickening of the oval window leading to the inner ear. In this form of deafness, a hearing aid can be helpful.
Perceptive or nerve deafness is when damage to nerve pathways or sensory cells is the cause of hearing loss. In such cases, a hearing aid is of little use.
To assess which kind of deafness has occurred, a tuning fork is used. If the vibrating fork is held just a short distance from the ear, the sound waves emitted will have to be transmitted through the middle ear to be heard. If, however, the middle ear is blocked or diseased, the sound will be heard indistinctly, if at all.
The vibrating fork will be held to the skull if the cochlea is healthy. It can pick up the sound waves emitted at that point without them first having to pass through the middle ear. If, however, the cochlea or auditory nerve is diseased, the conduction of sound will be lessened or non-existent. This is perceptive hearing loss.
- Babies may be born deaf due to an underdeveloped internal ear, or damage incurred in the early, formative weeks of pregnancy.
- In childhood, the most common causes of deafness (perceptive hearing loss) are meningitis or a chronic infection spreading from the middle ear.
- In adults, particularly in women, the most common cause is hereditary otosclerosis – hardening of the tissues in the middle ear. Surgery may bring about some improvement in hearing, but the process cannot usually be halted.
Common Ear Problems and Their Treatment:
Mastoiditis: This occurs when a middle-ear infection spreads to the mastoid bone, behind the ear. The bone swells, causing pain and fever.
If the condition is not too serious, it may respond to antibiotics. Otherwise, surgical removal of the infected bone may be necessary.
Meniere’s Disease: This is a disorder of the labyrinth in the inner ear, and can seriously affect one’s sense of balance, causing sudden attacks of vertigo. These attacks may be accompanied by tinnitus and rapid, uneven movements of the eyeball, which have the disturbing effect of making stationary objects appear to whirl around. There may also be nausea and vomiting.
Attacks may last for several days and, like migraines, may recur within days or weeks; similarly, they may not recur for months. Recovery is often spontaneous, but if the attack causes severe discomfort, antinausea drugs, sedatives, or diuretics may be prescribed.
Otitis media: This is a middle-ear infection in which the eardrum becomes swollen and red, and may perforate. There may be temporary deafness, ringing in the ear, pain, and fever.
If this condition is not treated quickly, permanent deafness may result. Fortunately, with timely treatment, the inflammation can be successfully dealt with and hearing restored. So, if you have the symptoms described, do see your doctor without delay.
Tinnitus (ringing in the ears): This is often accompanied by dizzy spells or loss of balance. Tinnitus can be caused by high blood pressure, particularly if you are taking certain antibiotics or aspirin; but do not stop taking them.
Instead, go to see your doctor so that a preliminary investigation can be made and, if necessary, you can be referred for specialist treatment. These symptoms may also be experienced with certain ear diseases.