The ear is one of the smallest body parts, but it contains almost the entirety of our hearing abilities. Deep inside is a complex system working together so our brains can receive and understand sounds. It’s the synchronicity of these minute components that give us an important function and affect our quality of life.
How Hearing Works
Every sound is created by vibrations in the air we call, “soundwaves.” These soundwaves are air particles moving, caused by the vibrations, and carry the resulting energy. Your outer ear catches these and direct them into the ear canal.
Also known as the pinna, the outer ear plays a huge role in determining the quality of information we get from each sound. It’s structure tells us from which direction the sound is coming.
The secret is in the funnel shape and the curves and yet no two ears are exactly the same. If you think about it, you might not be hearing the same sound exactly as someone else does.
Three Important Bones
As the waves of particles enter the ear, they strike the eardrum which results in another set of vibrations that travel further into the ear. The first to catch these are three bones most commonly referred to as the hammer, anvil and stirrup. They’re also known as the malleus, incus and stapes. Together, they’re called the auditory bones or middle ear ossicles.
The area where these three are located is the middle ear. The stirrup, the smallest of the three, can be found in this small opening connecting the middle ear to the inner ear. When the stirrup catches the vibrations, it moves the window which also makes liquid in the inner ear move. It carries the energy into the cochlea, a snail-like structure.
Into The Cochlea
This is where thousands of tiny hair cells are hidden. The energy from the vibrations pushes against them, making them bend which sends impulses through the auditory nerves and into the brain. These impulses carry information which the brain uses to comprehend the sound.
It doesn’t just tell directions but what’s causing it, whether it’s loud or soft, and even differentiates words from music, laughter and even falling pots and pans. That’s why when any part of our ear has a problem, it can result in hearing loss.
Depending on the root cause, hearing loss can be treated through different methods such as hearing aids and surgery. If you’re suffering from hearing loss, it’s best to speak with an expert to determine which solution is right for you.
If you don’t suffer from hearing loss, it’s important to take steps to prevent it from happening as it can gradually worsen. There’s no such thing as using preventive measures too early. Start with proper care and avoid lengthened exposure to loud environments. When loud sounds can’t be avoided, be sure to wear proper headgear to protect your ears.