The sense of hearing is a genuine marvel. The brain is capable of picking up a variety of sound waves and converting them into familiar auditory sensations: a loved one’s voice, your favorite music or the roar of your car’s engine. Your eardrums play an important part in this process, but they’re not the only way your brain detects sounds. Bone conduction is another powerful pathway to hearing.
What Is Bone Conduction?
Put simply, bone conduction is the ability of sound waves to cause vibrations in your skull. These vibrations can reach the sound receptors in your inner ear.
If you’ve ever tried to block out noisy neighbors by putting a pillow over your head, you’ve probably noticed that some sounds still get through. In the same way, high-quality earplugs can lower the volume of heavy machinery at work, but they don’t completely block sound. Bone conduction is the reason. This natural process is also why your voice sounds different to you when you hear yourself in videos or recordings.
How Does Bone Conduction Work?
In the traditional hearing process, sound waves in the air reach your outer ear, travel through the ear canal and cause the eardrum to vibrate. These small vibrations move a series of bones in your middle ear, which are designed to amplify the sounds. The vibrations reach the fluid-filled part of the inner ear, called the cochlea, and trigger electrical signals to your brain.
The marvel of bone conduction can completely bypass the outer and middle ears:
- High-pitched or deep sounds cause the bones of your jaw and head to vibrate.
- These skull vibrations reach the cochlea directly, without needing help from your eardrums.
- As tiny hairs in the cochlea vibrate, they send information that the brain interprets as sound.
This process happens naturally in everyone, but some people use bone-conducting hearing devices to improve their hearing. These devices range from headphones to implants for hearing loss.
How Can Bone Conduction Help With Hearing Loss?
If you or a loved one have hearing loss caused by damage to the eardrums or middle ear, bone-conductive hearing devices may be able to improve your hearing. These specialized hearing aids automatically take sounds, turn them into vibrations and direct them to your inner ear.
Who Can Benefit From Bone Conduction Hearing Devices?
Conductive sound devices can help with many types of hearing loss, especially when the problem is related to the outer or middle ear:
- Defects of the ear canal or outer ear
- Persistent ear infections
- Damage to the eardrum
- Deafness on one side
- Sudden loss of hearing
- Diseases of the middle ear
These options are effective for a variety of age groups, including children. They help primarily with conductive hearing loss and mixed hearing loss.
Why Is Bone Conduction Testing Important?
There are a variety of conductive hearing devices available, and each type has pros and cons. Some devices transmit vibrations using a high-tech headband and others involve implants that rest against or inside the skull.
Bone conduction testing can help you discover which option is likely to provide the results you’re looking for and the comfort you want. Learn more about this revolutionary technology at HEAR Center right away.
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