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How do we hear?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

There are three main parts to the ear, including the inner ear, middle ear and outer ear. In order for hearing to occur, there is a sequence of actions that must occur to transform waves of sound in the air into electrical impulses. These impulses are transmitted to the brain by the auditory (hearing) nerve.

The waves of sound travel from the outer ear into the ear canal, a narrow and delicate tube-like structure. The ear canal goes deep inside the ear to tympanic membrane or eardrum. When the sound waves hit the eardrum vibrations occur. These vibrations are then passed on to the middle ear where there are three minuscule bones: the ossicles, including the malleus, incus, and stapes. These tiny bones magnify the sound and send it to the opening of the inner ear directly into the cochlea, a fluid-filled hearing organ, that’s part of the auditory system.

The multiple waves of sound vibrations cause the fluid in the cochlea to ripple. This rippling effect bends extensions of tiny hair cells in the cochlea and results in the auditory nerve sending electrical impulses to the brain. The brain then translates the electrical impulses into what we know as sound.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.