Your outer ear, the part that you can see, collects the sound waves. The sound waves travel through the ear canal to the middle ear, which is located inside of your head. Sound waves cause the eardrum (tympanic membrane) to vibrate, which in turn cause the three tiny bones (malleus, incus, stapes) in your ear to move. Their movements cause vibrations that are detected by the cochlea in the inner ear. The cochlea is a structure that contains liquid and tiny hair cells. Some of the hair cells make the vibrations louder and others send nerve signals to your brain that are interpreted as sound.
Sensorineural hearing loss is a type of disorder that results from problems with hair cells in the inner ear. Hearing aids are small electronic devices that can help people with sensorineural hearing loss. A hearing aid is worn in or near the ear. It makes sounds and vibrations that enter the ear stronger. The damaged structures in the inner ear are able to detect the magnified vibrations and in turn, send nerve signals to the brain. The degree of hearing aid amplification that is needed correlates with the amount of damage to the inner ear and subsequent hearing loss.
Behind-the-ear (BTE) Hearing Aids
Behind-the-ear (BTE) hearing aids consist of a component that is worn behind the ear and a earmold that fits inside of the outer ear. The hearing aid is made of hard plastic. BTE hearing aids are most appropriate for people with mild to profound hearing loss. Newer open-fit BTE hearing aids have a small component that is worn behind the ear and a tube that is inserted into the ear canal. An open-fit BTE is helpful for people that experience earwax buildup.
In-the-ear (ITE) Hearing Aids
Canal Hearing Aids
Middle Ear Implant (MEI)
A middle ear implant (MEI) is a device that is surgically attached to the bones in the middle ear. The MEI causes the bones to move and send greater vibrations to the inner ear structures.
Bone-Anchored Hearing Aid (BAHA)
The bone-anchored hearing aid (BAHA) is surgically attached to the bone behind the ear. The BAHA transmits amplified vibrations to the inner ear structures.
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This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
The iHealthSpot patient education library was written collaboratively by the iHealthSpot editorial team which includes Senior Medical Authors Dr. Mary Car-Blanchard, OTD/OTR/L and Valerie K. Clark, and the following editorial advisors: Steve Meadows, MD, Ernie F. Soto, DDS, Ronald J. Glatzer, MD, Jonathan Rosenberg, MD, Christopher M. Nolte, MD, David Applebaum, MD, Jonathan M. Tarrash, MD, and Paula Soto, RN/BSN. This content complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information. The library commenced development on September 1, 2005 with the latest update/addition on February 16, 2022. For information on iHealthSpot’s other services including medical website design, visit www.iHealthSpot.com.