Hearing is a complex process. To put it simply, when something makes a noise, it sends sound waves through the air. These waves are funnelled into the ear canal by the outer ear, and the sound waves strike the eardrum and cause it to vibrate.
At the end of the auditory canal lies the tympanic membrane (ear drum) and the middle ear. Within the middle ear cavity is contained the ossicles, the three small bones, known by the layman as the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup. When sound waves hit the eardrum, it vibrates and, in turn, moves the hammer. The hammer moves the anvil, which moves the stirrup, transmitting the vibrations into the inner ear. The middle ear functions to amplify sound, which is why significant hearing loss can result from any disruption in any of its parts.
The inner ear consists of the cochlea and the vestibular (balance) system. The cochlea converts sound waves into nerve impulses that travel to the brain via the movement of tiny hair cells. It is the brain that allows you to hear…as long as the message it is receiving is not distorted due to problems in the process just described.
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