How We Hear
Sounds are invisible vibrations that travel through the air. When the phone rings, someone speaks, birds chirp, or anything else creates a sound, a vibration or a sound wave is sent through the air in all directions. These vibrations are detected by the ear and converted into nerve impulses that are perceived by the brain. The better the ears work, the better the sounds will be captured, and be sent to the brain with better clarity.
There are 3 main components to the hearing system: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.
The Outer Ear
The outer ear consists of the ear canal and eardrum (also known as the tympanic membrane). Sound travels down the ear canal striking the eardrum causing it to vibrate.
The Middle Ear
The middle ear is the space behind the eardrum which includes the 3 smallest bones in the human body (also known as ossicles); the Malleus, Incus and Stapes (smallest bone in the body). This chain of ossicles is connected to the outer ear via the Malleus bone on one end, and to an opening to the inner ear via the Stapes on the other end. So, the vibrations from the eardrum cause the ossicles to move/vibrate which in turn causes the movement of the fluid in the inner ear.
The Inner Ear
The inner ear consists of the cochlea a spiral shaped fluid filled tube. Movement of the fluid in the inner ear causes changes in tiny structures called hair cells which are located inside the cochlea.
The movement of the fluid causes the cells to carry a message up the auditory nerve to the brain, which turns the signals into what you hear. Please watch the following video on how the ear works for more clarity.
Hopefully you found this simplified version of how we hear to be helpful and informative.
Till next time,
Kostas (Gus) Neoclis, Sc.D., CCC-A, Audiologist