How We Hear

Hearing is often a sense that we can take for granted. It’s a very complex and elaborate process that allows us to listen to conversations, make phone calls, and etc. To understand how hearing works, there are four main parts of our ear that you need to know about.

1. The Outer Ear

The main function of the outer ear is to collect the sound, and transfer it into the middle ear. There are two main structures of the outer ear that work together to do this.

  • Pinna: A frame of cartilage that funnels the sound into the ear canal.
  • External ear canal: Continuous with the skin of the pinna, it’s protected by hair and cerumen.

2. The Middle Ear

The middle ear receives the sound carried down from the outer ear. It begins at the eardrum-the tympanic membrane. Once the sound and air pressure from the outer ear strikes the eardrum, it starts to vibrate. These vibrations are sent to the ossicles, which are tiny bones in the middle ear. When the ossicles vibrate, it starts movement of the inner ear fluid.

3. The Inner Ear

The inner ear helps with hearing, but also maintains your balance. Many problems with dizziness, vertigo, and etc. originate with problems in the inner ear. The vestibular system is the system in charge of balance within the ear, and it contains compartments of fluid and sense organs that control your equilibrium.

The cochlea is in charge of the hearing aspect. The movement of the fluid from the middle ear causes changes in the inner ear’s hair cells. These hair cells have a major impact on your hearing, and they work by sending out chemical messages that are able to stimulate the nervous system.

After this entire process, the brain is able to interpret the signals sent by the inner ear, and translate them into sound.

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