The ear is made up of an outer ear, middle ear and inner ear (cochlea).
- The part we can see is the outer ear and includes the ear canal. It captures sound energy and funnels it to the ear drum.
- The middle ear is an air pocket underneath the ear drum and contains three hearing bones. Sound waves hitting the ear drum create vibrations that are transmitted down the hearing bones to the inner ear (cochlea).
- The cochlea is a fluid filled structure with sensory cells called hair cells. The hair cells translate the vibrations into patterns of stimulation for the auditory nerve. The auditory nerve then takes this information to the brain. In this way, the inner ear changes the sound vibrations into signals the brain understands. In children with severe or profound deafness, the hair cells and/or part of the auditory nerve are damaged, preventing the sound signals from being transmitted to the brain. This is called sensorineural hearing loss.