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The human ear is made up of three distinct parts; the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear gathers sound waves, the middle ear passes them on as vibrations to the inner ear, where they are converted into nerve impulses that the brain interprets as sounds.

The Outer Ear

The Outer Ear consists of an external flap of cartilage called the ‘pinna’, and the ear canal, along which sound waves are funnelled to the eardrum. The ear canal is around one inch long and is slightly arched in the middle. The entrance to the ear canal is protected by a layer of wax (also known as cerumen), which is secreted by small glands in the wall of the canal. Hairs and wax trap any tiny particles of dust and dirt, preventing them from reaching the canal or entering the eardrum.

The Middle Ear

Vibrations of the eardrum are passed on by three tiny bones of the middle ear; the hammer, the anvil and the stirrup; also collectively known as ‘ossicles’. The Eustachian tube leads from here to the back of the throat, where it is closed by a valve.

The Inner Ear

The inner ear consists of the cochlea and the auditory nerve. The cochlea contains three parallel channels of fluid that are vibrated by the stirrup. Waves travel from one end along one channel round the coils of the cochlea, and return along another channel to the other end. It is the pressure changes in the fluid that trigger impulses to the brain.

The Brain

From the cochlea, impulses travel along the auditory nerve to the brain, which interprets them as sounds. The nerve leads to various parts of the hearing centre: high notes end deep in the centre, low notes are heard at the surface. Along the auditory pathway are junctions at which the brain can stop unwanted sounds and can also work to prevent very loud noises damaging the hearing.

Damage to hearing

Our ears are incredibly sensitive and if they become damaged, hearing can deteriorate; even to a point of deafness. Sudden loud noises, or working in a noisy environment can damage the delicate work of the ear, and once the damage is done, it is irreparable. Employers have a duty to protect the health and safety of their employees, and minimising any damage to their hearing falls within that duty of care.

If you or someone you know has suffered damage to their hearing as a result of their job, you could be entitled to claim for compensation. Contact one of our highly experienced solicitors today to discuss you case and see how much compensation you could be entitled to.


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