How Our Ears Work

Our auditory system, or hearing system, is incredibly complex. It is thought of as two different parts: the peripheral and central.

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The human ear is made up of three components: the outer part (or otolith), the middle and then the inner parts.

  • Pinna (which is what we see on the outside of our head), the ear canal, and the eardrum (tympanic membrane) make up the outer ear.
  • Three tiny bones are located in a little cavity of air called the middle ear. The bones are the stapes, incus and malleus. They’re collectively called ossicles. The malleus connects to the tympanic membrane, which connects it to the external ear. The inner ear is connected to the smallest bone of the body, called the stapes.
  • Both balance and auditory organs are located in the inner part of the ear. The inner ear’s hearing organ is known as the cochlea. The word cochlea comes from the Greek word for snail because of the coiling shape. The auditory nerve connects the cochlea (which contains large numbers of sensory hair cells) to the main system. The cochlea contains special fluids that are essential to the hearing process.

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The auditory system is made up of the nervous system and a complex path that travels via the brainstem and onto the auditory cortex of the brain.

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