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York Hearing Clinic Blog

How Your Ears Work: Understanding the Anatomy of Your Ears and the Causes of Hearing Loss

Have you ever wondered how your ears actually work and the various parts that make up this complex organ that is not only responsible for hearing, but also balance? In all likelihood, you probably haven’t given this a single thought unless you have started to begin hearing loss.

Most people who have never experienced hearing loss take their ears for granted. We never stop to think about how our ears work, how hearing loss can be caused and how it can be treated.

If you have started to experience hearing loss or you simply want to learn how to prevent it, learning about how your ears work is a great way to start caring for them. Before we look at the causes of hearing loss, let’s first take a look at the anatomy of your ears and how hearing actually works.

So, how does hearing work?

The ear consists of many parts that all work in tandem to enable you to hear - damage to any of these parts could affect your hearing. There are three main components to the ear, the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.

The outer ear

The outer ear consists of the pinna, ear canal and eardrum. This is the first step of hearing, in which the outer ear catches sound waves and directs them through the ear canal to the middle ear. These sounds then cause the eardrum to vibrate.

The middle ear

The middle ear, which is a small air-filled space on the inside of the eardrum, consists of the ossicles. Once the eardrum begins to vibrate, it causes the ossicles (three tiny bones named malleus, incus, stapes) to move in the middle ear. These bones then pass on the vibration to the cochlea.

The inner ear

The inner ear consists of the cochlea, the auditory (hearing) nerve and the brain. The cochlea has fluid in it which moves due to the vibrations sent from the ossicles. This then bends hairs on the outside of cells lining the cochlea - there are about 17,000 tiny hair cells in each ear.

These inner hair cells proceed to create an electrical impulse signal that is sent along the auditory nerve to the brain - this is when your brain works out exactly what you are hearing.

What about ear wax, what does it do?

Everyone has ear wax, and the ear wax that is naturally produced by your body helps to clean, protect, and lubricate your ears. While our ears are designed to naturally expel excess earwax, it can be common to have a build up making it hard to hear properly.

This ear wax can be easily removed by a professional, such as York Hearing Clinic. This is particularly important - as we discussed in a previous blog titled ‘Can Cotton Swabs Harm Your Hearing?’ - because you should not stick any object into your ear canal.

What causes hearing loss?

Hearing loss can be a result of a large number of things, from illnesses such as meningitis, measles, or mumps, to listening to loud music and even swimming. Whatever caused your hearing loss, It’s important to be aware of how your hearing works so that you are able to identify the situations in which you have difficulty hearing.

If you think that you might be suffering from hearing loss, we firmly believe that the faster you receive expert support and advice the happier you will be. If you believe you might be suffering from hearing loss, or you simply want to receive a check up, contact our team of experts today.

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