Our ears are one of our most sensitive organs. Due to this fact, they can commonly get injured, leading to quite debilitating consequences such as hearing loss. Therefore, in order to keep our ears healthy, we need to pay extra attention to our general health.
The human ear consists of three parts, the outer, visible ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Due to our evolutional heritage, some people can still move their outer parts of the ear while other cannot, even though the muscles for this action still exist in our anatomy. Orangutans and chimpanzees also have these undeveloped muscles which are not functional but make the ear clearly visible.
The main function of our outer ear is collecting the audio signals from the outside world. Once these sounds enter the ear canal, they proceed through the middle ear and they go through the eardrum. Then, the sounds reach the three tiny bones of the middle ear, getting amplified and sent to the inner ear where the cochlea transforms the vibrations into electric impulses and sends them to the hearing nerve which further processes the heard information to the brain. Finally, the brain interprets the heard sound and allows us to orientate in space and identify the sounds we hear.
Problems with Ear
The outer part of the ear can get damaged easily, since it is made of cartilage covered with skin. Thus, when you expose your outer ear to rough handling, it can swell. During this process, the cartilage may get detached from the nutrient supply and fail to return into its normal shape, leading to ear deformation. This condition is common in wrestlers, due to the violent nature of the sport, the athletes being pressed on the ground with their ears exposed to damage. On the other hand, the ear lobes, when damaged, usually heal without problems since this area contains no cartilage. Furthermore, the outer ear can get damaged by lacerations, cuts, bites, frostbite, burns and other such injuries.
As far as the middle ear and the ear canal are concerned, these can get damaged too. Most commonly, the injuries affecting this area are related to loud sounds and foreign objects found in the ear. Using ear buds to clean your ears may lead to pushing the accumulated earwax closer to the eardrum, increasing the pressure in the area, along with chances of perforation. Smaller perforations of the eardrum heal on their own, but more severe cases of this type of ear injury require surgical procedures in order to prevent hearing loss. Other foreign objects inside the ear may stem from the debris or ear wax, along with items which accidentally enter the ear from the outside.
As for the inner ear injuries, most of these involve damage of the tiny hairs in this area. Most commonly, these get damaged due to loud noise exposure. However, many drugs have this side-effect too. Therefore, workers who get exposed to loud sounds every day, musicians and many other people are at a potential risk of losing their hearing due to inner ear damage.
Relevant Statistical Data
In 1972, the US EPA reported that about 34 million people were exposed to abnormally loud sounds on a daily basis. All these people were prone to hearing loss or hearing damage in the long run. Logically, countries which were undergoing industrialization had increased numbers of endangered people, due to the fact that more construction work was taking place in these parts of the world.
Another research, published by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health claimed that about 11% of entire human population suffered from some case of hearing difficulty, 24% of which were due to occupational noise exposure.
Out of all US workers, 22 million reported exposure to potentially dangerous noises. This accounts for 17% of total working force of the US. Also, these workers confirmed that their conditions were getting worse once they were not wearing adequate noise protection.
Taking into consideration the increased levels of noise we are exposed to nowadays, due to constant urbanization and an incomparable increase in public and personal vehicles, hearing loss today is more present than ever before. Furthermore, a vast majority of people, especially younger generations, are using portable music players on a daily basis, exposing their ears to constant noise, contributing to gradual hearing loss in the long run.
All in all, our ear is a delicate organ which can be damaged in many different ways. In fact, each of the three crucial parts the ear consists of are prone to different types of damage. These damages can lead to different consequences and may require different types of treatment. Sometimes, the damage is easily treated while at other occasions the hearing loss may be permanent.
Either way, we should keep our ears safe from all the potential damage causes surrounding us and seek medical assistance as soon as we notice any symptoms of injury.