Understanding How the Ear Works

Woman holding her ear

The ear is an organ that allows us to hear, as well as enables the body to balance using the vestibular system. The anatomy of our auditory system can be divided into two parts—central and peripheral. From there, the anatomy of the ear is further divided. While complex, understanding how the ear works can be vital to recognizing hearing problems.

How the Human Ear Works

The central hearing system contains the auditory nerve, as well as a pathway through the brain stem, which connects to the auditory cortex of the brain. The peripheral hearing system consists of three separate parts.

The Outer Ear 

The outer ear is largely responsible for “collecting” sounds. This part of the peripheral hearing system includes the auricle, ear canal, and eardrum. The auricle is the visible section of the outer ear. 

The Middle Ear

Inside the air-filled middle ear are the ossicles, three tiny bones called the incus, malleus, and stapes. The malleus connects to the eardrum, and the incus connects to the malleus. The stapes is attached to the incus and links to the inner ear. Overall, the middle ear is responsible for converting sound waves into vibrations, which then pass to the inner ear. 

The Inner Ear 

The inner ear contains the “hearing part” of the ear, as well as the organs that assist with balance. The hearing organ, called the cochlea, resembles a coil and contains thousands of sensory cells, which are connected to the central hearing system. The cochlea is filled with fluid, which helps with the process of hearing. The inner ear also contains semicircular canals, which assist with maintaining balance as we move.

How Hearing Works

The physiology of hearing is extremely complicated. The best way to understand it is by looking at each part of the ear and the role it plays.  

The normal ear functions when your environment produces sound, which is transmitted as sound waves. The outer ear “collects” the waves and sends them down the ear canal to the eardrum. The sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate, which sets the ossicles into motion and causes the fluid in the cochlea to move. The sensory cells in the cochlea bend and change the movement into electrical impulses, which are transmitted to the auditory nerve and up to the brain, where they are interpreted as sound.

For more information on how the human ear works, check out our website or contact us with questions. At Amdahl Hearing, we don’t just amplify sound—we amplify life. If you have any concerns about your hearing, we can help!

The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.