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Ear Anatomy

The three parts of ear anatomy

There are three parts of the ear that work together to pass noise from external sources through your ear to your brain for information processing. The three sections are known as; the inner ear, the middle ear, the outer ear. The inner ear is made up of the cochlea, the auditory nerve and the brain. The middle ear consists of the middle ear bones called the ossicles (malleus, incus, stapes). The outer ear includes the pinna, the ear canal and the eardrum.

1. The Outer Ear

The outer ear is the first port of call, starting with the pinna which harnesses the sound waves and directs them into the ear canal. The ear canal is a narrow passageway leading to the eardrum. Sound travels in waves through a narrow passageway called the ear canal to the eardrum.

The outer ear (pinna) ‘catches’ sound waves and directs them through the ear canal to the protected middle ear. These incoming sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate. This is where the process of understanding these sound waves begins.

2. The Middle Ear

The ossicles are a tiny chain of three bones; the malleus, incus and stapes, which move in the middle ear in a vibrating fashion as they react to the movement of the eardrum. Through these vibrations (imagine the skin on a musical drum vibrating when you strike it), the ossicles, a tiny chain of bones (malleus, incus, stapes) move in the middle ear.

The middle ear is connected to the back of the nose and throat by the Eustachian tube. This means that when your loved one yawns or swallows, the Eustachian tube can open to equalise the pressure on both sides of the eardrum and prevent the membrane from being damaged.  

When you get some cold and flu symptoms, the Eustachian tube can become blocked with mucus, causing a build-up of pressure and temporary hearing loss or impairment as a result.n tube can become blocked with mucus which can cause a build-up of pressure and temporary hearing impairment or loss as a result.

3. The Inner Ear

The inner ear is the final part of the ear, allowing us to translate sound waves into recognisable information. The cochlea is a spiral-shaped membrane which is lined with over 15,000 tiny hairs and has fluid moving within it. When a tiny bone taps on the membrane of the cochlea, the fluid inside moves, stimulating the tiny hairs and triggering electrical nerve impulses.

These impulses are then transported via the auditory nerve to the brain for deciphering. From here, it's up to their brain to interpret those impulses as recognisable sounds.

Learn more about the human hearing range Read more
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