If you’re like most people, you wake up every morning to the sound of an alarm clock, but how does that annoying noise travel through your ears and into your sleepy, reluctant consciousness? Taking a look at the complexity of your amazing ear anatomy can help you understand. Your ear has three main parts that work together to direct sound waves from the air to your brain. Here’s a brief overview of each one.
The Outer Ear
The visible part of the outer ear is the pinna. It’s the interesting mass of cartilage you see on each side of your head. Although they provide lots of opportunities for piercing, those odd-looking curves and ridges aren’t just there for aesthetic purposes. They’re designed to direct sound waves inward through a small tube called an auditory canal that ends at the tympanic membrane, which is commonly known as an eardrum. The eardrum is a thin, circular membrane that vibrates when it encounters sound.
The Middle Ear
From the eardrum, sound vibrations continue into the middle ear. The center of the middle ear is a pressurized environment known as the tympanic cavity. Inside, a set of three tiny, suspended bones intensify sound vibrations before they are conducted to the inner ear. Each bone affects the next as sound passes through and gains power before reaching the end of the canal, where a membrane called the oval window awaits.
The Inner Ear
Beyond the oval window rests the cochlea. It looks a lot like a snail’s shell, but its job is much more complicated. Inside the cochlea, a system of fluid-filled tubes and tiny hair cells move in reaction to sound vibrations, and transform them into electrical impulses. These impulses travel along the auditory nerve until they reach your brain. Your inner ear is also the place where a semicircular canal system called the labyrinth determines your sense of balance and head position.
Protect Your Hearing: It’s No Small Accomplishment
Given the complexity of the ear and its delicate parts, many things can go wrong and interfere with normal hearing. To keep the system working smoothly, take care of your ears throughout life. Address ear pain, hearing loss and dizziness or balance problems promptly. If you work around loud noise, wear protective ear plugs or headphones.
Western New York Trusts Ken-Ton Hearing for Exceptional Care
At Ken-Ton Hearing, our experienced doctors of audiology understand your frustration with hearing loss. We’ve been providing comprehensive hearing evaluations and compassionate care for residents of western New York for more than 30 years. Offering the latest technologies in hearing aids and aural rehabilitation, our doctors of audiology can help optimize the quality of your hearing and your ear health. To schedule a professional hearing test or to learn more about our practice, contact us today.