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The inner ear is the most important part of your ability to hear. Nestled deep inside the head, it is the part of your hearing mechanism that sends what’s heard to the brain so it can interpret it accordingly.

When you hear something, the sound makes the following journey:

  1. It is collected by the outer ear and sends the sound to the eardrum.
  2. The eardrum converts the sound into kinetic (moving) energy and passes the energy along to the bones in the middle ear: the malleus, incus and the stapes.
  3. The bones covert the energy into vibrations.
  4. The vibrations are sent downward to the inner ear.

Once the vibrations reach the inner ear, they travel around the cochlea and are dispersed to individual hair follicles—approximately 15 to 20,000—each of which only responds to one specific sound. There is only one final transformation after this point: The vibrations become electrical impulses. The impulses are then sent to the brain for interpretation and comprehension. Whew!

The Inner Ear Wears More Than One Hat

Sound isn’t the only thing the inner ear is in charge of. It also plays a vital role in the vestibular (balance) system because of the labyrinth, an organ that is a part of the inner ear’s makeup. Within the labyrinth are three horizontal, fluid-filled structures known as the semicircular canals. The fluid they contain tells the body when it’s moving and communicates with other parts of the body—including the skeletal system and eyes—to help the body maintain the proper position and keep objects in focus while it’s in motion.

Conditions of the Ear

Due to the delicate intricacies that make up our hearing, the inner ear—as well as other associated parts of the ear—are particularly prone to damage and disorders. These can include:

  • Barotrauma of the ear, a condition in which the ear is injured due to changes in water or barometric (air) pressure
  • Ear infections, a common ailment in infants and children where the tubes inside the ears are blocked with mucus and fluid
  • Labyrinthitis, an inflammation of the inner ear or the nerves that connect the inner ear and the brain
  • Meniere’s disease, a condition that can cause tinnitus, dizziness, hearing loss or ear pressure which may be due to an issue with the fluids in the inner ear
  • Peripheral vertigo, a feeling of motion sickness, dizziness and/or loss of balance due to an issue with the inner ear
  • Tinnitus, a ringing or roaring sound in the ears that can be the result of loud noises, medicine or other causes

Keeping All Parts of the Ear Safe

Though problems like viruses can’t always be avoided, a lot of issues with the ears can be by simply paying attention and caring for how we hear. Hearing care tips include:

  • Avoiding the use of cotton swabs to clean ears out
  • Getting an annual hearing exam
  • Keeping the volume on your music player down to a reasonable level
  • Keeping your ears dry after water activities, including showering
  • Letting your ears take a break from loud situations by stepping away for a few minutes
  • Using ear protection in loud situations, even mundane ones such as mowing the lawn

Come to the Hearing Specialists

At Sonora Hearing Care, our experts are the leaders in the treatment, diagnosis and continued care of hearing difficulties. From evaluation to implant testing and mapping, we are committed to providing the best care possible in a warm, inviting environment.

To schedule an appointment with one of our specialists, contact us today.