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Three Generations Helping Patients Hear Better

How does the ear work?

The ear is made up of three main sections:

  • The Outer Ear
  • The Middle Ear
  • The Inner Ear

Hearing begins when the outer ear, the visible portion of the ear that is on the outside of the head, channels sound waves down the auditory canal. This tube like passageway is lined with tiny hairs and small glands that produce ear wax. As the sound waves enter the ear, the ear canal (1) serves to increase the loudness of those pitches that make it easier to understand speech. At the same time the ear canal protects another important part of the ear: the eardrum (2) - a flexible, circular membrane which vibrates when touched by sound waves.The sound vibrations continue their journey into the middle ear, which lies at the end of the auditory canal. This area contains three tiny bones called the ossicles (3-5), also known as the hammer, anvil and stirrup. These bones form the bridge from the eardrum into the inner ear. When sound waves hit the ear drum, it vibrates and, in turn, moves the hammer. The hammer moves the anvil, which moves the stirrup which moves the vibrations into the inner ear. They increase and amplify the sound vibrations even more, before safely transmitting them on to the inner ear via the oval window.The Inner Ear, consists of the cochlea (8), resembles the circular shell of a snail, and houses a system of tubes which are filled with a watery fluid. As the sound waves pass through the oval window (6) the fluid begins to move, setting tiny hair cells in motion. In turn, these hairs transform the vibrations into electrical impulses that travel along the auditory nerve (9) to the brain itself. Exactly how the brain actually translates these nerve impulses remains a mystery.

How does your ear work?

1. Ear canal
2. Eardrum
3-5. Ossicles
6. Oval window
7. Canal leading to the nose
8. Cochlea
9. Auditory nerve