How We Hear

earThe ability to hear and understand is an essential part of our everyday activities and overall quality of life. Regardless of age, we all depend upon our hearing and the ability to communicate every day. At home, communicating with our family and friends, watching and listening to your favorite television programs, talking on the telephone, listening to music, the list goes on and on. No matter how mild or significant your hearing loss, it interferes with your ability to fully appreciate sounds and experiences.

Unfortunately, most people put off doing something to help them hear better – to their own detriment and to the detriment of their friends and family. Individuals with hearing loss wait on average more than 7 years to begin the process of improving hearing. We at NYC Hearing and Balance hope that once you learn more about hearing you will take positive action to do something about your hearing loss today!

The ear consists of three main parts:

Outer Ear
The outer ear includes the visible portion of the ear, called the auricle or pinna, and the ear canal. Sound travels down the ear canal and into the middle ear.

Middle Ear
The eardrum (tympanic membrane) is a very thin layer of skin that vibrates when sound reaches the membrane. It acts as the entrance to the air-filed cavity of the middle ear. Within the middle ear cavity there are three small bones – the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil) and stapes (stirrup). These three small bones move back and forth transferring sound waves into the inner ear.

Inner Ear
The inner ear consists of both the hearing and balance organs. The hearing organ, called the cochlea is filled with thousands of sensory hair cells that send neural impulses via the VIII nerve to the brain. These hair cells are pitch (frequency) specific. The semi-circular canals – the organs of balance- are also located within the inner ear.