How The Ear Works

Hearing is one of the most under-appreciated senses as it relates to our ability to fully enjoy all of life’s precious moments. Yet, far too often do people only appreciate it upon experiencing hearing loss. This video helps to explain how hearing works and ways to prevent hearing loss difficulties.​
Source: Starkey Hearing

Parts of The Ear

The ear has three main parts: the outer ear (including the external auditory canal), middle ear, and inner ear.

  • The outer ear   (the part you can see) opens into the ear canal. The eardrum (tympanic membrane)separates the ear canal from the middle ear.
  • The middle ear contains three small bones which help amplify and transfer sound to the inner ear. These three bones, or ossicles, are called the malleus, the incus, and the stapes (also referred to as the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup respectively).
  • The inner ear contains the cochlea which changes sound into neurological signals and the auditory (hearing) nerve, which takes the sound to the brain.

How Do We Hear?

You’re hearing is the complex system of delicate and interconnected parts that are easy to take for granted. To help you better understand why hearing loss happens, you should first know how your hearing works.

Sound is actually a vibration. When something vibrates like a bell, wind, or a voice it moves the air around it. The air carries the energy of those vibrations as a sound wave, that’s where your ear comes into play.

The shape of your outer ear is as unique as your fingerprints but plays an important role in how you hear. Called the pinna it’s funnel-like shape and curves enable you to determine where a sound is coming from so you immediately know if the source is in front, behind, above, or below you. Sound waves are collected by the outer ear and directed along the ear canal to the eardrum.

When the sound waves hit the eardrum they cause the three bones of the middle ear to move. The smallest of these bones fit into the oval window between the middle and inner ear.

When the oval window moves, fluid in the inner ear moves, carrying the energy through a delicate snail-shaped structure called the cochlea. In the inner ear, thousands of microscopic hair cells are bent by the movement of the fluid inside the cochlea.

When these hairs bend it sets off nerve impulses which are passed by the auditory nerve to the hearing center of the brain. Sounds like words, music, or laughter are translated from these impulses by the brain.

If any part of this delicate and complicated system of bones, hairs, and fluid breaks down hearing loss frequently results. As you can see the ear is an amazingly intricate body part that many take for granted until something goes wrong.

Source: Starkey Hearing Technologies