How do we really hear this great big world around us? How does the ear do all of that? It is kind of crazy to think about how it is all done and it can also be a little bit daunting to know and understand, but let’s break it down.
Parts of the ear
The ear is made up of three main parts; the outer, the middle and the inner ear. Each part of the ear works together to gather the information and to send it off to the brain to interpret and understand. But how does this all work?
How we hear sound
First the outer ear gathers the sound. This is done by the auricle, the part that you see on the side of your head, and by the ear canal. The auricle gathers the sound in and pushes it down the ear canal. The sound that is projected down the ear canal is then pushed into the middle ear via the eardrum. The sound is received by the middle ear and then vibrates the eardrum, which then vibrates the bones of the middle ear; the malleus (hammer), the incus (anvil) and the stapes (stirrup). The vibrating bones then send the sound into the inner ear through the tiny opening of the oval window.
The sound now travels into the inner ear and round and round in the cochlea they go until it triggers one of the tiny hairs in the cochlea. Each of these tiny hairs in the cochlea responds to a specific frequency or pitch; once triggered the tiny hair will then convert the sound heard into an electrical impulse that is then sent off for the brain to interpret. The brain then interprets the information to allow us to understand what it is that we are hearing.
Putting it together
Through this process, which is lightning fast, we are able to understand and hear all types of sounds at many different levels or frequencies. We are able to understand how loud or quiet the sound is. We are able to also understand from where the sound is coming from; in front of us, behind us or beside us. The ear is also responsible for our balance. And once again this happens so quickly we don’t even know that is it happening. So please do take care of your ears and hearing as it cannot be replaced.
Understanding how we hear is an important part of our hearing health. If you are having difficult hearing others or have any auditory concerns, visit a hearing care professional to establish a baseline for your hearing.