Anatomy of the Ear

To best understand hearing loss, it is helpful to first understand the anatomy of the ear. The ear has three main parts: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.

Outer Ear

  • Pinna (auricle) – collects and funnels sound into the ear canal.
  • Ear canal (external auditory meatus) – directs sound into the ear.

Middle Ear

  • Eardrum (tympanic membrane) – changes sound into vibrations.
  • Hammer, anvil and stirrup (malleus, incus and stapes) – this chain of three small bones (ossicles) transfers vibrations to the inner ear.

Inner Ear

  • Inner ear (cochlea) – contains fluid and highly sensitive "hair" cells. These tiny hair-like structures move when stimulated by sound vibrations.
  • Vestibular system – contains cells that control balance.
  • Auditory nerve – leads from the cochlea to the brain.

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