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Understanding Deafness : How the Ear Works

Any source of sound sends vibrations or sound waves into the air.

Diagram showing how the ear worksSound waves travel down the ear canal and strike the eardrum, causing it to vibrate.The vibrations are passed across the middle ear by three small bones and into the inner ear, the cochlea, via the oval window.

Here the vibrations cause movement in the fluid in the cochlea and as a result the tiny hair cells lining the cochlea move. This movement creates a small electrical charge, or nerve impulse, which is carried by the auditory nerve to the brain and is interpreted as sound.