Your ability to recognize sound is an important function of a healthy individual. It should never be taken for granted. This is why a hearing test should be an important part of any regular health maintenance program. Many things can occur to anyone during their lifetime that could impair that function. It could occur because some sort of trauma, illness, or can be caused by an allergic reaction to medication. A problem could arrise that is so subtle that it could easily escape our attention. But a hearing test from a qualified specialist would always be able to identify the slightest loss.
How do we recognize sound? All sounds in our environment start out as vibrations that propagate in the air, in liquids like water, and even in solid materials. These vibrations produce sound waves that vibrate at a certain speed or frequency. The speed of the wave is also what determines the pitch of the tone. The sound's pitch is the determining factor of whether the sound is low or high. The volume of the sound is determined by the height of the produced sound wave. When this sound enters our ear it is translated into nerve impulses that reach our brain that in turn translate the impulses into the sounds we hear.
How do our ears do this? This process is achieved by the systems in our ear working properly. When a sound is done by our external ear it is funneled through the ear canal to the eardrum or tympanic membrane. This membrane separates the ear canal from the other systems in the middle ear. The sounds cause the tympanic membrane to vibrate and this vibration then moves the vibration to the bones in the middle ear. These bones are extremely small and when any sound strikes them it causes the bones to vibrate. This vibration magnifies the sound and sends it along to the inner ear. A curved space in the inner ear contains the main sensory organ of hearing, the cochlea. When the sounds meet the cochlea the vibrations cause the fluid in the inner ear to move which in turn bends minute hairs attached to the cochlea wall. This movement creates nerve impulses, which travel along the cranial nerve to the brain, which then translates the impulses into recognizable sound.
Because of the complexity of the systems involved it is important to have a hearing test administrated by a qualified professional on a regular basis. An audiologist is just that person. They are highly trained in detecting audio loss in children and adults and they have developed useful and comprehensive diagnostic tools to separate and identify not only audio loss but also the systems of the ear that are causing that loss. One of the first things the audiologist will do is perform a visual inspection of your ear canal. Hearing loss can occur because of things as non-threatening as wax buildup.
The testing that may be employed by the audiologist almost involves the use of a special device called an audiometer. This device is used to not only used to perform the various tests but to also assist in evaluation of the results.