An understanding of the normal physiology of hearing allows an understanding of hearing loss and its differential diagnosis, and of the normal and abnormal perception of speech and music. This entry explores the normal physiology of hearing with an overview of the acoustic roles of the outer ear (pinna and ear canal), the middle ear (three bones, two muscles, tendons, and ligaments), and the spiraling cochlea of the inner ear, as well as a brief description of the neural circuitry of the brainstem and higher auditory centers (Figure 1).

The Role of the Outer Ear

Each external ear (pinna) collects sound and funnels it into the ear canal (the external auditory meatus), amplifying sound about 3-fold (i.e., 10 decibel [dB] at 6 kilohertz [kHz] depending on ...

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