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NIH MedlinePlus the Magazine, Trusted Health Information from the National Institutes of Health

Special Section:
Focus on Communication

Anatomy of the Human Ear/
Questions to Ask your Hearing Professional

human ear anatomy

Photo courtesy of Krames


You may have hearing loss without realizing it. Or you may have symptoms such as

  • Earache
  • A feeling of fullness or fluid in the ear
  • Ringing in your ears (called tinnitus)


  • Aging
  • Ear infections, if not treated
  • Certain medicines
  • Genetic disorders
  • A severe blow to the head
  • Loud noise

Assistive Devices

  • Hearing Aids—Small electronic devices worn in or behind the ear to help people hear more in both noisy and quiet situations. Hearing aids enable people with hearing loss to listen, communicate, and participate more fully in daily life.
  • Cochlear implants—Small, complex electronic devices that can help to provide a sense of sound to people who are profoundly deaf or severely hard-of-hearing. They consist of an external portion that sits behind the ear and a second portion that is surgically placed under the skin.
  • Assisted Listening Devices (ALD)—Devices that enable better communicating in day-to-day situations. ALDs can be used with or without hearing aids to overcome distance, background noise, or poor room acoustics. An example is a telephone amplifying device.

To Find Out More

For more information on hearing loss, visit,


  • Know how much noise is too much
    Sounds at or above 85 decibels (dB) can damage your ears. Normal conversation is about 60 dB. Chainsaws, hammers, drills, and bulldozers ring in at over 100 dB.
  • Protect your hearing from loud noise
    Wear ear plugs or special earmuffs to prevent hearing loss from dangerously high noise levels. (See page 16 for more on decibel information.)

Questions to Ask Your Hearing Professional

  1. What can I do to protect my hearing from loud noise?
  2. How can I prevent infections that cause hearing loss?
  3. If I already have a hearing loss, can I get my hearing back?
  4. What options do I have for treating a hearing loss?
  5. Is hearing loss hereditary?
  6. Can any of my medicines cause hearing loss?

Fall 2008 Issue: Volume 3 Number 4 Page 12