Have You Ever Wondered How You Hear?

Like most people you probably take your hearing for granted. But have you ever wondered how you hear or how your auditory system captures, transmits and deciphers sound? Your auditory system is one of the most complex and delicate sensory systems in your body. Watch the video below to learn more.

The 4 Parts of Your Hearing System

There are four parts to your auditory system. The outer ear (the visible part extending to your ear canal), the middle ear (where the canal meets your eardrum), the inner ear (containing your cochlear) and your brain where you interpret sound.

Sound waves are captured by the shape of your ear and are then transmitted to the eardrum via the ear canal.

Three tiny bones and the eardrum make up the middle ear. Sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate. The three bones or ossicles called the malleus, incus, and stapes, pass the vibration on to the inner ear.

Anatomy of the Inner Ear
Sound waves are transformed into electrical impulses. The cochlea is filled with fluid, sound waves cause this fluid to move and the movement is picked up by sensory hair cells which send the electrical impulses to your brain.

Your brain, specifically the central auditory nervous system, is responsible for the recognition and decoding of signals from the cochlea via the auditory nerve, including what the sound is and where it is coming from.

How Sound Is Transmitted To Your Brain

Hearing mechanics cropped - Acoustic radiation

The external, middle, and inner ear are all involved in the mechanical transmission of sound. The external ear consists of the auricle (pinna) and the ear canal. The external ear canal ends at the eardrum membrane (tympanic membrane), which separates the external ear from the air-filled middle ear.

The middle ear is ventilated by the Eustachian tube, a connection to the nasopharynx (the upper part of the throat connecting the nose and mouth).

Auditory pressure waves which are collected by the auricle pass through the external ear canal and cause vibrations of the drum membrane.

These vibrations are transmitted to the middle ear bones, i.e., hammer (malleus), anvil (incus), and stirrup (stapes).

The inner ear contains a coiled, fluid-filled tube that is named the cochlea. The cochlea is where the sound vibrations are transformed into neural form. The organ of Corti in the cochlear duct contains hair cells that turn the vibrations into electric neural signals.

The hair cells stimulate the auditory nerve (for hearing) which combines with the vestibular nerve (for balance), forming the vestibulocochlear nerve.

The vestibulocochlear nerve (known as the eighth cranial nerve) transmits sound and equilibrium (balance) information from the inner ear to your brain.

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This page was written by Marcus Chadwick and reviewed by Ron Trounson Charge Audiologist at Ear Health on 3 March 2020.


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