How Does the Ear Work?

How does the ear work.  Anatomy of the human ear.

If you want to address your hearing difficulty, you need to first understand how a normal functioning ear processes sound. 


Outer ear

The part of the ear that we are all most familiar with is known as the pinna. The pinna is the external ear you see on the side of your head. It is responsible for catching and funnelling sound toward the ear canal. The ear canal directs sound toward the middle ear. The outer ear is comprised of both the pinna and the ear canal. 


Middle ear

The eardrum, or tympanic membrane, marks the beginning of the middle ear. The eardrum receives its name because, like a drum, it has a membrane that vibrates. It vibrates when soundwaves travel through the ear canal. 

Behind the eardrum is a small pocket of air and three tiny bones known as the malleus, incus, and stapes – the smallest bones in your body. The vibrations from the eardrum cause these bones to vibrate. The middle ear consists of the eardrum, as well as the pocket of air that contains the three bones.


Tiny nerve endings inside the human earInner ear

The inner ear is home to:

  • Cochlea: This organ contains thousands of sensory hair cells (as seen on right under magnification) that allow our ears to convert vibrations from the three middle ear bones into comprehensible sounds.
  • Auditory Nerve: The auditory nerve transmits the electro chemical signals produced by the hair cells to the brain to be interpreted.
  • Semi Circular Canals: These canals control our sense of balance.