How the ear works

Hearing explained

When your hearing is working normally, information is passed through each section of your ear to your brain. Your brain receives these messages and you will naturally respond.

The ear is the organ responsible for hearing and balance. Thanks to its unique mechanisms, it receives sound waves and transforms them into proper sounds, making sense to us.

Parts of the ear

Learn more about the anatomy of your ear

The importance of well hearing

Hearing is precious as 40% of the information provided by our senses is auditory in origin. Not only that, it also helps us to orient ourselves in relation to sound sources, allowing us to understand the environment around us.

In every part of the communication process, hearing acts as a sound filter, working in passive mode when unimportant background noise is present so we can focus on other things without overburdening our brain.

Without noticing it, our hearing reverts back to its active mode as soon as important information, such as speech, car noise or the sound of a ringing phone, reaches us. Hygiene (keeping our ears clean, dealing with earwax) is very important to ensure that our hearing function remains optimal.

Hearing and balance

Ears have another important function aside from hearing: balance. Within the inner ear are three ringed canals containing fluid. The link between hearing and balance is determined by the posterior, lateral and anterior canals in the ear, which operate on different planes (think of measuring a box: it has length, depth and width), with the movement of the fluid in these canals helping the brain to establish balance.

The continued movement of these fluids is why people feel dizzy after spinning around, before returning to normal once the fluid settles again. Ear infections and medical conditions which reach the ear can also, therefore, affect balance as well as hearing.

Understanding sounds and communicating

Our hearing is, above all else, the most important sense used for communication. It is essential for language learning, meaning that hearing problems in babies and children can have a greater impact on their development, affecting the way they interact with the world around them.

Hearing can decode and reproduce the intonations, rhythms and accentuations of a heard sentence. Each sound, each string of sounds and each variation is as much a form of information to us as it is to the person communicating with us. By analysing this information, hearing allows us to respond in the most appropriate way using what our auditory system and brain have learned.

Ear wax and protection

Everyone has ear wax and it is common to have a build up making it hard to hear properly. Although this can be easily removed, it can happen time and time again, causing hearing loss or affecting the performance of existing hearing aids.

How can I improve my hearing?

It is important to be aware of how the ear works and to identify the situations in which you have difficulty hearing. Speak to a friend or family member as they may be able to give you advice and support, and they might even notice changes in your hearing or behaviour that you haven’t.

Perhaps the easiest and best way to protect your hearing is to reassure yourself with our expert advice and support. At Amplifon, we have more than 65 years of experience and understanding of how the ear works. Our expert audiologists and audiometrists are dedicated to helping you rediscover what it is like to hear well. Book an appointment or take an online hearing test today.

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Ear anatomy

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