How You Hear
Hearing begins when sound waves enter the outer ear (the visible portion of the ear located on the outside of the head) and are channeled down the auditory canal, a tube-like passageway lined with tiny hairs and small glands that produce oil and sweat.
The middle ear lies at the end of the auditory canal. The middle ear includes the eardrum and the three smallest bones in the human body. You might remember these bones from biology class as the hammer, anvil and stirrup. Sound waves traveling down the auditory canal vibrate the eardrum. These vibrations are transferred through the middle ear bones to tiny hair cells in the inner ear.
The inner ear lies deep in the bone of the skull. In a healthy ear, you have 20,000 hair cells in about the space of a dime. Think of these hair cells as high resolution keys on a piano. When these hair cells move, they code information electrically and transfer it to the brain for processing. For most adults with hearing impairment their listening and understanding problems begin with a loos of hair cells in the inner ear.
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