How the Ear Works
The ear has three sections: the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear.
The outer ear consists of the auricle and external auditory canal. These structures can be affected by multiple problems including an infection (drainage/swelling), ear wax (a.k.a., cerumen), or tumors/masses. The eardrum separates the outer ear from the middle ear.
The middle ear contains three small bones (malleus, the incus, and the stapes; a.k.a., hammer, anvil, and stirrup, respectively) behind the eardrum, which amplify and conduct sound to the inner ear nerves.
The inner ear has the cochlea (hearing organ) which converts the sound caught by the ear, to electrical signals to the auditory (hearing) nerve, to the hearing centers of the brain.
Ear Evaluation at the Otolaryngology Office
When seeing the Otolaryngologists at Sonoran Ear Nose and Throat, the examination includes:
- Physical examination – Typically there is use of an otoscope (ear scope) to look at and assess the ear.
- Audiogram – Hearing testing. This evaluates not only hearing loss based on tones, but word clarity as well (see the Audiology section).
- Tympanogram – This test measures the health of the ear drum, as well as the air pressure in the middle ear (behind the ear drum), sometimes showing fluid.
- Otoacoustic Emissions – This test measures the function of tiny hair cells within the cochlea.