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How Hearing Works

Hand and Ear

The ear is a marvelous part of our body. Allowing us to hear and interpret the world around us. Enabling us to hear a baby’s coo, a dog’s bark, a composer’s masterpiece, a siren, a funny movie or a loved ones words of endearment.  So amazing what the ear does for us each and every day, but how does it really work?

The ear is broken down into three parts: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Each part plays a significant role in how we hear the world around us, but each part also works together with the other parts to make what we hear seamless and instant. So let’s take a quick look at each part of the ear to understand more about how the ear works.

  • The outer ear: The outer ear simply put is what you see on the side of your head. This part of the ear gathers the sound and directs it down into the ear through the ear canal; the sound is compacted as it works its way down the ear canal. The sound is then picked up by the middle ear starting at the eardrum.
  • The middle ear: The middle ear starts at the eardrum. The eardrum flexes as the sound hits it transferring the sound into kinetic energy to travel through the only bones of the ear; the auditory ossicles. The first bone is the malleus, which is also known as the hammer. The second bone is the incus also known as the anvil. The third bone is stapes also known as the stirrup. These bones vibrate and move in conjunction with the sound presented to it by the eardrum, which then turns the kinetic energy into wave vibrations.  The stapes sends the sound into the middle ear via the oval window.
  • The inner ear: The inner ear is where all the magic takes place. The inner ear can be broken down into two parts the semicircular canals and the cochlea. The semicircular canals help us with our balance, the three canals have fluid in them, which ebb and flow as we move. The cochlea is all about the sound. The cochlea takes the sound that was given to it by the middle ear and sends it through the “shell” (it looks like a seashell) to activate the tiny hairs associated with each specific sound. The cochlea then concerts the information into electrical impulses so that the nerves can send the information up to the brain for the brain to interpret and understand what it is that we are hearing.

If you’re experiencing hearing loss or notice your hearing isn’t what it once was, schedule an appointment to have it evaluated by an audiologist. Hearing is an important sense and the audiologist will be able to test your ability and determine what the cause is and how severe the decline is.