How does the ear work?

Understand your hearing

When your hearing is working normally, information is being passed through each section of the 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 mechanism it makes us receive the sound waves transforming them into proper sounds, making sense to us.

Anatomy of your ear

There are three parts of the ear anatomy, the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The inner ear is also called the cochlea.

  • The outer ear consists of the pinna, ear canal and eardrum
  • The middle ear consists of the ossicles (malleus, incus, stapes) and ear drum
  • The inner ear consists of the cochlea, the auditory (hearing) nerve and the brain
View an interactive illustration of the anatomy of the ear View

The outer ear

Sound travels in waves travel through a narrow passageway called the ear canal to the ear drum. The outer ear (pinna) ‘catch’ sound waves and direct them through the ear canal to the protected middle ear. These incoming sound waves cause the ear drum to vibrate. This is where the process of understanding these sound waves begins.

The middle ear

Through these vibrations, imagine the skin on a musical drum vibrating when you strike it, causes 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 the eardrum and prevent the membrane from being damaged.  

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

The inner ear

The last bone in this process ‘taps on the membrane window of the spiral-shaped cochlea, which encourages the fluids in the cochlea to move and in doing so stimulate tiny hair cells on the inner wall of the cochlea. There are over 15,000 of these hairs and stimulating them to move triggers electrical nerve impulses that are taken to the brain via the auditory nerve. From here, it's up to their brain to decipher those impulses as recognisable sounds. 

Ear wax and protection

Everyone has earwax and it can be 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 your hearing 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. Here at Amplifon we have more than 65 years of experience, and our expert audiologists are dedicated to helping you rediscover what it is like to hear well.

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