villager article - Where it some times goes wrong

Articles from The Villager part 4

The hearing mechanism can be separated into 3 areas- outer, middle and inner ear; the inner ear, or cochlear being the organ of hearing. The outer ear is the ear canal and occasionally, too much wax can prevent sound reaching the middle and inner ear.

There has to be a lot of wax which has become very hard before our hearing is affected. If I had a pound for every person who I had advised NOT to use cotton buds to clean their ears….. This is not what cotton buds are for; it says so on the packet! “But how do I clean them?” If I had a pound….

The ears are, in effect, a self cleaning mechanism and a certain amount of wax is quite normal. Cotton buds can push wax further down the ear canal and irreparable damage can result. Oh,.. and it hurts. Various other obstacles have been observed to inhabit peoples’ ears over the years, animate and inanimate.  Spiders, peanuts and threads of cotton buds are on that list of alien objects.

All noise hits the ear-drum which vibrates like a drum and makes sounds louder. Perforations or tiny holes in the ear-drum reduce its effectiveness as can problems within
the middle ear. Glue ear, more commonly a child-hood condition, is the build up of fluid restricting the movement of the ear drum and the tiny bones of the middle-ear, the Ossicular chain.

The Eustachian tube connecting the middle ear to the mouth acts as a pressure balancing mechanism between the outside world and the middle ear and the fluid build-up increases the pressure on the ear-drum, pushing it outwards. The ear-drum sometimes gives way under the pressure which is quite painful, causing perforation of the ear-drum. For those familiar with flying may have experienced this pressure change and the discomfort that goes with it.

There is mounting evidence suggesting that the increase of middle ear problems in children is caused by the ever cleaner, sterile environment which we have developed the habit of cocooning them in. The humble dust mite is allegedly just one culprit and is possibly everything to do with allergies. A whole generation of children are suspected to be less resistant to such things in our cleaner warmer homes. Their reduced tolerance can result in more infections which affect, amongst other areas, the middle ear.

The inner ear is the nerve centre of our hearing, translating mechanical action into nerve impulses for our neurons (brain cells) to try to make some sense of. 
This critical process is diminished through several causes which I will explore next time... If you don’t use it, do you lose it?