The Art of Hearing

Guide: How we hear

Our ears are very complex organs

Their job is to sense sound vibrations that travel through the air. Each ear has three main parts which play important roles in the hearing process: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. They form part of your hearing pathway.

Outer ear

This section is made up of two important parts—the pinna and the ear canal. The pinna is the part people see, the area that’s shaped like a hand tightly cupped over the entrance. Like a funnel, it collects the sound and directs it through to the eardrum in the middle ear. As sound travels through the ear, it vibrates.

Middle ear

As the vibrations travel to the eardrum, they cause a chain reaction in three small bones interconnected in the middle ear captivity. These are called the ossicles, and they amplify the sound and send it from the eardrum to the inner ear.

Inner ear

The bones send the vibrations to the cochlea—a snail-shaped structure filled with watery liquid and lined with many thousands of tiny hair cells. As the cochlea vibrates, so does the liquid. When this happens, the hair cells sense the motion and convert it into an electric/chemical signal, that is then carried to the brain through the auditory nerve. The brain then interprets this as sound.

So technically, you hear with your brain. Your ears are the complex vehicle that takes the soundwaves to the brain.