Ever Wonder How You Hear

Although your ears are not very big, they are some of the most complicated organs in your body. They take vibrating sound waves from the air around you, pass them through a series of processes, and eventually convert them into electrical signals that get sent to a brain. You don’t notice any of it happening, but you almost instantly can perceive sounds in the world around you. Take a couple of minutes to learn a little bit more detail about how the process works.

Hearing begins when sound waves around you enter the bowl of your ear, called the pinna. The shape of your ear is perfect for funneling the sound waves into your ear canal, which is a small tube about 1/3 cm long. At the end of your ear canal is your ear drum, which is a stretched membrane that vibrates when sound waves strike it.

Three tiny bones in your middle ear transmit the sound from your ear drum to your inner ear. The first bone, the malleus, is attached to the ear drum, the incus is in the middle, and the stapes is positioned at the entrance to the cochlea. This is the fluid-filled part of your ear that looks like a snail’s shell. As the bones vibrate the fluid in the cochlea moves in waves.

In the last stage of the hearing process, the tiny hairs inside your cochlea move with the waves. Every move generates an electrical signal that gets sent through the auditory nerve. Your brain receives and interprets these signals as sound, constantly receiving new information as new sounds enter your ears. Each stage of the process is necessary for you to hear well, and especially as you age, your ears may not work their best.

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