How does our hearing work?

The ears are fairly complicated organs and knowing how they work can help us understand how to best look after them.

The ears are fairly complicated organs and knowing how they work can help us understand how to best look after them.


All sound is transmitted as sound waves which the outer ear collects and sends down the ear canal to the eardrum. These sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate, which move the sound vibrations into the cochlea, a spiral-shaped bone that is the hearing part of the inner ear. Hair cells in the cochlea are tuned to respond to different sounds based on their frequency. As each hair cell detects the frequency that it’s tuned to respond to, it generates a nerve impulse which travels along the auditory nerve to reach the hearing centre of the brain - the auditory cortex. It’s here that nerve impulses are then turned into meaningful sounds.


The astonishing part is that this all happens within a fraction of a second - almost instantaneously from when the first sound wave enters our ears. Illustrating not only how powerful our hearing sense is, but also how important our brain is in our understanding of what we hear.

Grey Cat