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How Does Hearing Work

Our ear is divided into 3 parts: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Sound travels through each of these divisions, to the auditory nerve and then to our brain.

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Outer Ear

  • This consists of the large part of ear (pinna) which we can see and the ear canal.
  • Sound waves are collected by the outer ear and funneled through our ear canal, where it reaches the middle ear.

Middle Ear

  • This consists of the eardrum and three small bones called the ossicles. The ossicles are known as the malleus, incus, and stapes, but more commonly known as the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. The middle ear is an air filled space. The Eustachian tube extends from the middle ear to the back of the throat.
  • Once the sound waves hit the eardrum, the eardrum vibrates which rocks the ossicles and activates the inner ear.

Inner Ear

  • This consists of our organs of hearing, the cochlea, and of balance, the semicircular canals.
  • The ossicles rock in and out of an opening in the cochlea which causes the fluid in the cochlea to move. When the fluid moves, small hair cells within the cochlea are bent. The stimulation of the hair cells sets off nerve impulses that are sent along the auditory nerve.