What is the Auditory Nerve?

Pamela Pleasant

The auditory nerve helps to send sound signals or vibrations to the brain. It sits behind the cochlea and connects to the vestibular organ or semi-circular canals. This nerve is a part of the inner ear and it is just one of the many parts of the ear that allow us to hear sounds. They all work together to send these sounds or vibrations to the brain for processing. The auditory nerve contains receptor neurons.

In some cases, damage to the auditory nerve can cause permanent hearing loss.
In some cases, damage to the auditory nerve can cause permanent hearing loss.

To fully understand how the auditory nerve works, it is important to know how sound is heard. When people hear sounds, they are really experiencing vibrations or waves of sound. These vibrations enter the ear through the pinna. This opening connects to the ear canal and it is shaped like a megaphone. It enhances vibrations and makes them easier to sense.

The auditory nerve is essential to hearing.
The auditory nerve is essential to hearing.

The eardrum sits in the ear canal and it is there to protect the middle and inner ear because it acts like a shield. There are three tiny bones that are located behind the eardrum. When a vibration hits the eardrum, these bones vibrate. They are refereed to as the stirrup, anvil, and hammer and they all vibrate one after the other, until the sound is passed on to the inner ear.

The auditory nerve sits behind the cochlea and connects to the semi-circular canals.
The auditory nerve sits behind the cochlea and connects to the semi-circular canals.

Sound enters the inner ear by way of the cochlea. This is a fluid-filled sac that also vibrates when sound is heard. The basal membrane within the cochlea then passes the vibration to the auditory nerve by way of the organ of corti. This organ is actually cells that are referred to as hair. These hairs connect directly to the auditory nerve.

Chronic ear infections can cause hearing loss.
Chronic ear infections can cause hearing loss.

This process not only allows us to hear but also sense other things. Pitch and loudness can also be determined by vibrations within the ear. For example, the organ of corti already amplifies sound but if the noise is extremely loud, it causes the cells or hair to vibrate more intensely. It then sends the information through the auditory nerve and the brain perceives it as a loud noise.

The acoustic nerve, also known as the auditory or vestibulocochlear nerve, is one of the 12 cranial nerves.
The acoustic nerve, also known as the auditory or vestibulocochlear nerve, is one of the 12 cranial nerves.

Damage to the auditory nerve can result in permanent hearing loss. This is called neural hearing loss and it can be caused by certain diseases or medical conditions. Hearing loss caused by illness can be avoided by early detection. Hearing can be partially or fully restored if the auditory nerve is not damaged severely.

Damage to the auditory nerve may lead to a hypersensitivity to sound that is known as hyperacusis.
Damage to the auditory nerve may lead to a hypersensitivity to sound that is known as hyperacusis.
Sound vibrations enter the ear through the pinna, the outer part of the ear.
Sound vibrations enter the ear through the pinna, the outer part of the ear.

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