The ear is a sophisticated organ that transmits the sounds we hear into electrical impulses that are interpreted by the brain. The process of hearing and interpreting sound is accomplished at a fantastic speed. To achieve this remarkable feat, each part of the ear – outer, middle and inner ear – fulfills a specific function.

Anatomy of Hearing

The ear has three main parts: the outer ear (including the external auditory canal), middle ear, and inner ear.

Any source of sound sends vibrations or sound waves into the air. The outer ear (the part you can see) collects sound and funnels it through the ear canal. The sound waves vibrate the eardrum (tympanic membrane), which separates the ear canal from the middle ear. The first hearing bone called the malleus (hammer) is incorporated into the eardrum and vibrates. The malleus transmits sound to the incus (anvil), which transfers sound to the stapes (stirrup). Sound is then transferred to the cochlea which contains tubes filled with fluid. Here the sound is changed into nerve signals which are sent to the brain via the auditory (hearing) nerve. The brain interprets the impulses as sound (music, voice, a car horn, etc.).