How We Hear

The Ear is Made up of Three Parts

The Outer Ear

Is made up of skin and cartilage on the outside and the ear canal, which leads into the head. Each individual’s ear canal will vary in shape and size. The most common causes of hearing loss in the outer ear include excessive accumulation of wax and infections of the ear canals.

The Middle Ear

Begins at the eardrum about 2.5cm inside the head and includes the little bones that help move the sound vibrations to the cochlea, which is the hearing organ.

The most common causes of hearing loss in the middle ear are due to perforated eardrums, infection of fluid filled middle ears, and otosclerosis. Many of the outer and middle ear problems can be treated with medications or surgically. In instances where such treatments are ineffective, the use of hearing instruments may be helpful.

The Inner Ear

Is where those vibrations are transformed into signals that are sent to the brain for interpretation. This is when you experience the sensation of sound. This is also the part of the ear that controls your balance.

The most common causes of hearing loss in the inner ear are due to damaged inner ear structures. Usually this is due to the natural aging process, excessive exposure to noise, ototoxic medications, and head injuries. This type of hearing loss is generally permanent but can be improved with hearing instruments. Sound waves enter the ear canal and hit the eardrum. This causes it to vibrate. The three tiny bones (malleus, incus, stapes) in the middle ear link the vibrating eardrum with the inner ear. The last of these three tiny bones are connected to the cochlea, which is a snail shell shaped structure responsible for converting the sound wave vibrations into a particular sound frequency. The translated sound waves are then transported via nerves to the brain where the sound is experienced. This all happens in a fraction of a second.

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