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Ears are the organs that allow us to experience sound. They also play an important role in balance. Ears are complex and divided into three different sections: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.

All three are involved in hearing but only the inner ear is responsible for balance.

The outer ear consists of the visible part of the ear as well as the ear canal and directs sound waves into the ear and towards the eardrum.

The middle ear contains the eardrum and several tiny auditory bones that are connected to the inner ear. Sound waves cause the ear drum to vibrate and these vibrations are sent via the auditory bones to the inner ear.

The middle ear also equalises air pressure via the Eustachian tube which runs from the middle of the ear to the back of throat.

In the inner ear, the cochlea detects the vibrations and converts them to electrical signals, sending them up the auditory pathway to the brain.

As ears are open to the external environment and connected to the throat, occasionally conditions develop which cause pain, discomfort and affect hearing. The most common ear problems are ear wax build-up, outer ear infection (swimmer's ear) and middle ear infection (otitis media).

Ear anatomy

The diagram below shows the many parts of the human ear.

Ear anatomy