Auditory Damage

by Sharon Hopkins


The primary function of our auditory system is detection of sound. The auditory system is also responsible for the sense of balance and maintaining equilibrium. Any kind of damage to the auditory system can result in loss of hearing ability and sense of balance. The severity of hearing loss will depend on the amount of damage caused.

To be able to understand the implications of auditory damage, the knowledge of how the auditory system functions is imperative. The human auditory system can be explained as follows-

The mainstay of the human auditory system is the cochlea, a coiled duct measuring about 30 millimeters. The cochlea consists of nerve fibers and specialized cells designed to detect a plethora of sound frequencies and noise levels.

Cells at the base of the coil detect high frequency sounds; cells in the middle can detect mid-frequency sounds while those at the end of the coil detect low frequency sounds. The cochlea is connected to the cranial nerve, brain stem nuclei and the neurons of the cortex. If any one of the above mentioned components doesn’t work, there will be a hearing problem. Sensorineural hearing loss or conductive hearing loss could be the result of such damage.

Damage to the auditory system can result in a condition known as tinnitus. Tinnitus is characterized by the presence of a persistent ringing noise in the ears, generally accompanied by loss of hearing. Excessive exposure to loud noise, aging and ear infections are the commonest causes of tinnitus.

Other common types of auditory damage include -

  1. Accidental damage to the inner ear, brain stem and cortex. Such damage could be caused by the presence of foreign objects in the middle ear.
  2. Puncture or perforation of the tympanic membrane (eardrum),
  3. Fracture of the temporal bones
  4. Severe head injury.
  5. Certain drugs (ototoxic) can cause damage to the auditory or vestibular hair cells.

Infections and disorders that affect the inner ear can cause problems for your hearing as well as equilibrium.


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