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The ear

Ever wanted to know exactly how your ear works?

The ear is made up of three different parts. The outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. These parts all work together so people can hear.

The outer part of the ear is called the pinna. The pinna catches sound waves and directs them down the ear canal. The eardrum is at the end of the ear canal.

When sound waves hit the eardrum, it vibrates. These vibrations make the middle ear bones move so sound gets into the middle ear and the cochlea.

The cochlea is the part of the ear that looks like a snail’s shell. It’s filled with thousands of tiny sound-sensitive cells, called hair cells. The hair cells make a tiny electrical signal and the auditory hearing nerve carries these to the brain. The brain interprets these signals and that is when we hear and understand the sound.

For our hearing to work fully, all the parts of our ear must work well. Deafness happens when one or more parts are not working as well as they should. There are lots of different descriptions for this – including hearing loss, hearing impairment, partially hearing, hard of hearing or deaf.

To keep things simple, we use deaf and deafness for all different types of deafness.

Next to the cochlea are semicircular canals. These are tubes that are filled with movement-sensitive hair cells. This time the signals that are sent tell the brain about what the body is doing.  For example, if the body is lying down, standing up or upside-down. The brain uses this information as well as what we see and what we feel to keep us balanced.

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National Deaf Children's Society

Registered Charity: England and Wales (1016532) and Scotland (SC040779)

Helpline: 0808 800 8880

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