Anatomy Ear and Hearing Loss

03 Jul 2021

Learning Ear Anatomy

The ear is a wonderful organ, catching sound waves and transmitting them to your brain. Your ears bring you music, speech, bird songs, sirens and warnings. Hearing allows communication, protects us and brings us beauty – all through a flap of cartilage and skin on each side of your head.


The Ear Anatomy Consists of Three Parts

Outer ear

The shell-like outer ear is called the pinna, made of cartilage.

Within the pinna, the ear canal spirals down to the eardrum.

The pinna is shaped so that sound waves are gathered from the front, funneled through the cup of the pinna, through the canal to the eardrum.

Middle ear

The eardrum is a thin membrane, very much like the head of a drum. When sound waves reach it, the membrane vibrates, causing movement in the middle ear.

The three bones in the open space in the middle ear are called the malleus, incus and stapes, (the hammer, anvil and stirrup). They are the smallest bones in the body. The malleus is attached to the eardrum. The incus is in the middle. The stapes, which looks like a stirrup, connects the incus with the oval window, a membrane set in the inner wall of the middle ear. Vibrations of the eardrum are carried across the tiny bridge of bones to the oval window.

The oval window is much smaller than the eardrum, a factor that magnifies the vibrations. The ear bones also increase the vibrations.

Inner ear

The inner ear lies in bone that has hollow spaces, filled with fluid. Within these hollow spaces is the organ of hearing, the cochlea.

The cochlea looks something like a snail, a spiral of tissue that is supported by a screw-like bone.

There are three sections to the cochlea, divided by membranes.

Within the middle section, attached to the membrane lies the Organ of Corti. This is the final part of the cochlea that converts the fluid vibrations to nerve signals

How does hearing loss occur?

Conductive hearing loss

Blockage of the ear canal, usually by impacted cerumen, although sometimes by foreign bodies such as beads, bugs, etc.

Perforation of the eardrum by infection, Q-tip, sudden change in air pressure.

Arthritis of the middle ear bones, which sometimes occurs with aging.

Fluid in the middle ear as a result of infection, allergies, swelling of the throat.

Sensorineural hearing loss

Malfunction of the cochlea or auditory nerves usually due to disease or trauma.

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