Anatomy of the Ear

Anatomy of the Ear

Hearing and Your Hearing Loss

Most of us take our hearing for granted—until we start to lose it. Understanding the structure of the ear and how it works can help you protect your precious hearing.

The ear has three parts: the outer, middle, and inner ear.
anatomy of the human ear

Comprising the outer ear are the pinna and the ear canal. From the pinna, sound enters the ear canal. Certain pitches important to understanding human speech are amplified here. At the end of the outer ear is a membrane called the eardrum.

Beyond the eardrum, we enter the middle ear. Connected to the eardrum is a series of three tiny bones called ossicles, otherwise known as the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. The middle ear also has one end of the Eustachian tube, which leads to the nose and throat. This tube equalizes pressure when there is a change in atmospheric pressure (in an airplane or under water).

Vibrations from the eardrum are transmitted and amplified through the ossicles to an oval window at the cochlea, which is part of the inner ear. Problems with this process are called conductive hearing loss. Was buildup, holes in the eardrum, or ear infections typically cause conductive hearing losses.

Within the inner ear, vibrations received by the cochlea stimulate tiny hair cells, which are translated into nerve impulses. These are picked up by the acoustic nerve and sent to the brain.

The fragile inner ear is where many things can go wrong. Loud sounds can damage the hair cells, reducing their number. Diseases, viruses, infections, and normal aging can also damage the inner ear. Problems with the inner ear are called sensorineural hearing loss, which affects our sensitivity to sounds, and our ability to understand words.

Hearing loss caused by both conductive and sensorineural problems are termed mixed hearing losses.

Whatever the nature of your hearing loss, a trained audiologist can perform a painless assessment in less than an hour. Understanding the nature of your hearing loss will lead to the best method of treatment. Call Audiology Innovations today to schedule a free assessment.