How we hear

How does hearing loss occur?

Have recently realized that you could be suffering from hearing loss? You may be wondering how this could have happened? Let’s get a little bit closer to your ears, and have a look inside. Most of us have never seen the inside of an ear. We may have no idea how all its parts works or what they do.

Having a better understanding of hearing loss begins by understanding how we hear. The diagram below shows what an ear looks like on the inside.  Below it is some information about how it all works, and the steps involved in hearing. Let us take a look inside!

hearing test appointment


  • The sound waves are collected by the outer ear, and channelled along the ear canal to the eardrum.
  • When sound waves reach the eardrum, the impact creates vibrations which are transferred through a series of three tiny bones.
  • The third of these bones is connected to a delicate, snail-shaped structure called the cochlea. The cochlea is filled with fluid and lined with thousands of microscopic hairs. The vibrations are transmitted to the fluid in the cochlea. Here the hair cells are bent by the wave-like action of fluid inside the cochlea. The bending of these hairs sets off nerve impulses that are then passed through the auditory nerve.
  • The auditory nerve carries the signal to the hearing centre of the brain. This in turn, translates the impulses into what we perceive as “sounds”.

When you see how the ear works, you could imagine the delicate bones and tiny microscopic hairs inside. These tiny bones and hairs contribute to your ability to hear. Knowing this can give you a better idea of how important each part of the process is. 

When there is an issue anywhere within this delicate process it can greatly impact your ability to hear.  It can even be something as simple as a build-up of fluid within the ear canal.