How Do Ears Work?

Ears handle collecting sounds, processing them and sending the sound signals to the brain. The ear is made up of three different sections; the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.

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The hearing process starts with the outer ear or pinna that captures sounds waves, and focuses and funnels sound waves to the ear canal and towards the middle ear.

The middle ear starts at the end of the ear canal. Its job is to transform mechanically sound waves and send the signals on to the inner ear (cochlea). The sound waves reaching the middle ear cause the eardrum vibrate which moves the ossicles, the three tiniest bones in the human body named the malleus, the incus, and the stapes.


Also known by the medical term cerumen, is produced by glands in the ear canal to guard the skin of the ear canal. It traps dust, assists in cleaning and lubrication, and protects against bacteria, fungi, insects and water.

The Inner Ear

It is made up of two components: the cochlea which is involved with hearing and the vestibular system which helps with balance. The sound vibrations reach the inner ear as vibrations that cause the fluid in the cochlea vibrate. The hair cells in the cochlea move with the movement of the fluid creating electrical impulses, which are then transmitted by the hearing (auditory) nerve to the brain where they are interpreted as sound. On the other hand, the vestibular system, which helps maintain body balance, is made up of a network of tubes called the semicircular canals, and the vestibule. This system contains sensory cells that detect movement instead of sound. Like the cochlea, the vestibular system is connected to a nerve which carries electrical signals to the brain to help maintain balance.