Problems with the outer, middle and inner ear can affect hearing, speech and balance. In particular, hearing disorders can affect the auditory and/or vestibular (balance) mechanism at any level. Hearing disorders in children can sometimes lead to speech disorders, as reduced auditory input can result in difficulty learning language.
Hearing loss can be classified as one of several types, including:
When structures of the outer, middle or inner ear aren't working properly, sound can't be conducted from outside the ear to the brain to be processed and understood. Hearing loss can have a variety of causes, including age, noise exposure and several different hearing disorders:
Structures of the vestibular system, which help to control balance and awareness of the body's place in space, are housed in the inner ear. Therefore, disorders and conditions that affect the inner ear can also lead to problems with balance:
Infections can occur in the outer, middle and inner ear. These infections can cause ear pain and discomfort, and if they become serious, they can lead to permanent damage in the ear:
The hearing process can also be affected beyond the structures of the ear and auditory nerve. Central auditory processing disorder (CAPD) is a communication disorder characterized by problems with processing the auditory information sent to the brain via the auditory nerve, and assigning meaning to sounds, including speech. Though their auditory structures function normally, individuals with CAPD still have trouble understanding auditory information.
American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Staff. (n.d.). Causes of hearing loss in adults. Retrieved March 22, 2010, from American Speech-Language-Hearing Association Web site: http://www.asha.org/public/hearing/disorders/causes_adults.htm.
Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Staff. (n.d.). Otosclerosis. Retrieved March 22, 2010, from Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary Web site: http://www.masseyeandear.org/for-patients/patient-guide/patient-education/diseases-and-conditions/otosclerosis/.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Benign paroxysmal positional vertigo. Retrieved March 22, 2010, from Mayo Clinic Web site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/vertigo/DS00534.
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Staff. (n.d.). Auditory processing disorders in children. Retrieved March 22, 2010, from National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders Web site: http://www.nidcd.nih.gov/health/voice/auditory.asp.
information on health-related topics, not medical advice, diagnosis or
treatment recommendations. Please consult your physician if you have questions