How Hearing Works

Turning sound vibrations into information your brain can process

The ear is a complicated environment with three main parts: The outer ear, including the auditory canal, the middle ear and the inner ear. Each part plays its own role in turning sound waves into nerve stimuli. Whether you are awake or asleep, your ears are constantly active, working in tandem with your brain to keep you informed of the world around you.

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Capturing the waves in your outer ear

The outer ear serves the important function of capturing sound waves and funneling them toward the eardrum. Earwax lives here – which you may find annoying, especially when it builds up – but it serves an important purpose. Earwax prevents infections and helps the ear stay clean by collecting dirt. The eardrum – the tympanic membrane – separates the outer canal and middle ear.

The middle ear’s vibrating bones

As sound waves are transferred from the eardrum into the middle ear, three small bones, the ossicles, amplify noise. The ossicles consist of the malleus (the “hammer”), the incus (the “anvil”) and the stapes (the “stirrups”). These small bones work in tandem to transfer sounds into the inner ear.

Changing waves into electrical signals: the magic of the inner ear

Deep in the inner ear, the fluid-filled cochlea houses thousands of nerve-hearing “hair” cells. It is here that vibrations get transformed into neurological signals that present sound information to the auditory nerve. Sound waves move the hair cells, which pass messages to the brain’s auditory cortex.

Damage to any of part of the ear can result in hearing loss.

Have issues with your ears? New England Hearing Instruments can help

If you are experiencing trouble hearing, pain in your ears, ringing or phantom sounds or dizziness, call our professionals at (508) 925-7721 and do not hesitate to make an appointment.

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