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Explanation on How the Ear Works

Hearing is important for us to be able to live life as it comes and also make the most of our potential as human beings. It is empowering and enriching. Hearing is what enables us to work, socialize and even relax. Our safety in the world is enhanced by our ability to hear and gain awareness about our environment. It keeps you alert and also allows you to be empathetic towards other people’s distress.

Levels of Hearing

At the end of World War II, a medical doctor named Ramsdell was the first to go deeper into the hearing aspect of our lives. As he was treating some patients who had lost their hearing on the battlefield, he closely observed them and classified the things for which we rely on our hearing and that further went on to be defined as the levels of hearing.

  • The Symbolic Level – This level of hearing is related to our understanding of speech. It informs us, educates and also entertains.
  • The Aesthetic Level – This level is associated with our ability to appreciate the sounds we find pleasing. It gives us pleasure.
  • The Warning Level – This relates to our ability to recognize the sounds that alert us.
  • The Primitive Level – This is the level of hearing that enables us to understand the background sounds of the world around us in our daily lives.

While we all can understand the importance of hearing, it is also important to know how the ear works and what parts make up this organ that is responsible for us to hear.

Parts of the Ear

The ear anatomy consists of three parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.

1. The Outer Ear

It’s the part that we can see. It consists of the ear canal, eardrum, and pinna. Outer ear also includes the external auditory canal.

2. The Middle Ear

It consists of three small bones, namely malleus, incus, and stapes. These bones help amplify and transfer the sound signals to the inner ear.

3. The Inner Ear

It consists of the cochlea which changes sound into signals and auditory hearing nerve which takes those signals to the brain.

The Three-Step Process

To make you understand how the ear works, we have categorized the functions into a three-step process that takes place inside the ear.

  1. Sound waves travel in the air and they enter through the ear opening. Then they travel down to the external ear canal and hit the eardrum and cause vibrations in it.
  2. These vibrations further travel to the three small bones in the middle ear, where they are amplified and then sent to the cochlea.
  3. The cochlea contains tubes filled with fluids and the cells present in one of the tubes convert those vibrations into nerve impulses. These impulses are transmitted to the brain through hearing nerve. The brain is then able to interpret the impulses as sounds (voice, music, a car horn, etc.).

Normal hearing implies that all the parts of the ear are functioning properly. Hearing problems may occur when there is a problem in either of the parts.