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American Family Children's Hospital
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Glossary of Ear-Related Terms

Acoustic Neuroma (Vestibular Schwannoma)
A benign tumor that occurs on the acoustic (hearing) branch or vestibular (balance) branch of the 8th cranial nerve.
 
Air Conduction
The transmission of acoustic signals through the entire outer, middle and inner ear hearing system. This is the label used for the responses obtained through earphones.
 
Assistive Listening Device
A class of hearing instruments designed to increase the signal to noise ratio between the listener and the speaker. Such examples are FM systems that transmit via FM wave bands, infared systems that transmit via infared signal, personal amplifiers, telephone amplifiers, amplified or vibrating alarm clocks or alerting (flashing) fire alarms.
 
Auditory Brainstem Response (ABR)
This test provides objective information about the upper auditory system including the inner ear and brainstem. This is a simple and non-invasive test on part of the patient. Electrodes are placed on the ears and head while a click stimulus is presented through soft foam earplugs.
 
This test records the brainwave response to the stimulus. The audiologist will complete analysis and interpretation of the results and your otolaryngologist will discuss the test results with you.

Benign Paroxysmal Positional Vertigo (BPPV)
Benign means not life-threatening; paroxysmal means a brief burst; positional indicates the problem occurs with a certain body movement to a given position; and vertigo means a spinning sensation.
 
BPPV is thought to be caused by loose particles or degenerative debris in the balance portion of the inner ear, which have migrated (moved) to an area in which they are not normally found. Certain body movements cause these particles to move, causing a perception of spinning dizziness.
 
Bone Conduction
The transmission of acoustic signals through the mastoid or frontal bone of the skull. The signal is transduced or directed into the inner part of the ear only, bypassing the outer and middle parts of the ear.
 
Cerumen
The technical term for wax, that occurs in the outer part of the ear. Cerumen buildup may cause a temporary hearing loss if it occludes (blocks) the entire ear canal.
 
Cochlear Implant
A device that is surgically implanted into the cochlea of the inner ear in individuals with severe to profound hearing losses that do not gain benefit from amplification or hearing aids. This device allows these individuals to perceive sound through the implant.
 
Conductive Hearing Loss
A hearing loss that occurs in the outer or middle ear with the inner ear being normal. This type of hearing loss is common in children who have ear infections and fluid behind the eardrum.
 
Decibel (dB)
A unit of measurement indicating loudness, based on a logarithmic scale. Sound scales are based on either sound pressure level (dB SPL) or hearing level (dB HL).
 
Electrocochleography (ECoG)
This test provides objective information about the auditory system at the level of the inner ear. This is a simple and non-invasive test for the patient. Electrodes are placed on the head and foam plugs in the ear canals. A click stimulus will be presented through the foam plugs.
 
The test will record brain waves in response to the stimulus. The audiologist will complete the analysis and interpretation of the test and your Otolaryngologist will discuss the test results with you.
 
Electronystagmography (ENG)
This test provides objective information about the condition of the vestibular (balance) portion of the inner ear. This test comprises of subtests that have the patient look at different visual stimuli, lie in different positions and introduce cool and warm water to the ears.
 
The audiologist is looking for an eye movement called nystagmus and will measure the eye movement as part of a larger reflex, the vestibuloocular reflex that helps determine the condition of the inner ear.
 
Electroneuronography (ENoG)
This test involves electrical stimulation of the facial nerve in patients with sudden onset of facial paralysis to determine their prognosis of recovery from the paralysis.
 
Eustachian Tube
Passageway connecting the middle ear to the nose and throat. This opens to equalize pressure in the middle ear.
 
Eustachian Tube Dysfunction
Failure of the eustachian tube to open, resulting in a "plugged" feeling in the ear and possibly a buildup or negative pressure in the middle ear.
 
Hearing Aid
An electronic device that is designed to couple to the ear and to amplify and deliver sound to the ear. A basic hearing aid consists of a microphone, amplifier and receiver. Learn more
 
Hyperacusis
A phenomenon where normal sounds are perceived to be abnormally loud, so much so that they are painful to listen to.
 
Inner Ear
The section of the ear that encompasses the cochlea, hair cells and hearing nerve to the brain. If a person has a sensorineural hearing loss, the problem occurs in the inner ear.
 
Intraoperative Monitoring
Monitoring of the VIIIth cranial nerve (otherwise known as the vestibular and acoustic nerve) during surgery involving this nerve (e.g., acoustic neuroma/vestibular schwannoma removal, vestibular neurectomy). This testing continuously monitors how the ear is responsing to click stimuli during the entire operation.
 
Labyrinth
The inner ear, named because of the maze of connection pathways in the bony housing of this part of the ear. The inner ear consists of canals in the bone and fluid filled sacs within the canals.
 
Labyrinthitis
Inflammation of the labyrinth affacting hearing, balance or both.
 
Ménière's Disease
Characterized by symptoms of fluctuating hearing loss, vertigo, tinnitus and ear fullness.
 
Middle Ear
The center section of the ear encompassing the area past the ear drum through the bones of the ear to the cochlea.
 
Mixed Hearing Loss
Hearing loss that encompasses both conductive and sensorineural (nerve) components.
 
Modified Epley Maneuver
This treatment is used for patients who have benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). The purpose of this test is to move some particles back into their proper place in the inner ear and to relieve the problem that is causing their dizziness (see BPPV).
 
Ossicles
The medical term for the bones in the middle ear; they encompass the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil) and stapes (stirrup).
 
Otitis Externa
Inflammation of the outer ear, mainly the ear canal.
 
Otitis Media
Inflammation of the middle ear, may result from eustachian tube dysfunction.
 
Otoacoustic Emission (OAE)
Faint acoustical signals that emit from the outer hair cells located in the cochlea of the inner ear. These signals can be recorded in the ear canal by a sensitive microphone and can give information regarding the cochlear portion of the inner ear. These are measured by non-invasive means of placing a plug in the ear canal and recording the responses to either a click or pure-tone stimulus.
 
Outer Ear
The outer most portion of the ear encompassing the pinna and ear canal.
 
Pediatric Threshold ABR
This test provides objective information about the upper auditory system including the inner ear and brainstem without patient participation. This is a simple and non-invasive test on part of the patient. Electrodes are placed on the ears and head while a click stimulus is presented through soft foam earplugs.
 
This test records the brainwave response to the stimulus. This test is usually completed under sedation, in conjunction with, and under the direction of, the pediatric sedation team, for children older than four months old.
 
By presenting a click stimulus first at a loud intensity level, then at softer and softer levels until the waveform disappears, encompasses testing. The softest level is regarded as the threshold level the auditory system can detect sound.
 
This test is performed when other behavioral tests are not successful, and may be a part of a larger test battery ordered by the otolaryngologist. The ABR may be helpful in determining if a child has a hearing loss and what type of hearing loss it is (sensorineural loss, conductive loss, mixed loss). If the child needs to be fit with amplification, this test can assist the audiologist in fitting the child appropriately.
 
Presbycusis
Hearing loss related to age.
 
Sensorineural Hearing Loss (SNHL)
Hearing loss occurring in the inner ear or the hearing nerve. This hearing loss is usually permanent in nature. Sometimes a hearing aid is recommended, based upon the results of the hearing test.
 
Speech Banana
The areas of the audiogram where speech sounds fall, typically in a banana-shaped pattern.
 
Tinnitus
A sensation of ringing, buzzing, or whooshing occurring without a source creating the sound.
 
Tympanometry
A non-invasive test utilizing air pressure to measure the movement of the eardrum. This test is not a hearing test, but can determine if there is a hole in the eardrum or fluid behind the eardrum. This test can also be utilized to assess the ossicles (bones) of the middle ear to make sure they are working properly.
 
Tympanic Membrane
The medical term for eardrum.
 
Vertigo
Sensation of motion, often described as objects spinning around a person or the person spinning around the room with the room still. This could be a symptom of a vestibular (balance/inner ear) disorder.
 
Vestibular Schwannoma (Acoustic Neuroma)
A benign tumor that occurs on the acoustic (hearing) branch or vestibular (balance) branch of the 8th cranial nerve.