Our ears are like antennae picking up signals from different directions. The complex structures of the ear process these signals and pass them on to the brain, where they are interpreted. Therefore, for optimum hearing, it is best if both ears are fully functioning. But what exactly happens when sound waves enter the ear?
At the end of the ear canal, the sound waves hit the ear drum. The ear drum is a thin membrane between the outer ear and middle ear.
The ear drum is directly connected to the hammer bone. The hammer bone, along with the anvil and stapes, are the smallest bones in the human body. They transmit the mechanical vibrations of the ear drum into the inner ear.
The stapes transmits the vibrations via the oval window to the inner ear. In this way, the sound waves arrive in the cochlea, which is filled with fluid.
The sound moves along in the form of a traveling wave through the fluid-filled cochlea, through the hair cells as it goes the canal. The hair cells change the mechanical vibrations into electrical nerve impulses, which are then passed to the brain. This is the point where we hear.
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About 800 million people around the world are affected by hearing loss.