How does the normal ear work?

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Eric E. Smouha, MD
Ear, Nose & Throat (Otolaryngology)

Sound waves enter the ear canal and vibrate the ear drum (tympanic membrane). Those vibrations are carried through the three small bones of the middle ear - the hammer (malleus), the anvil (incus), and the stirrup (stapes). The stirrup passes the vibrations to the inner ear fluids within the cochlea. Fluid waves travel through two-and-a-half turns of the cochlea, bending the cochlear hair cells as it passes.

The cochlea has an array of hair cells, and each hair cell is tuned to a certain frequency, like the keys on a piano. The hair cells are the spark plugs of the inner ear, and when stimulated by incoming sound, they initiate a signal within their corresponding nerve ending that is then sent to the brain where the sound is recognized.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.