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How does hearing actually work?

  • A sound wave begins as a vibration which travels outward like ripples on the water. When these sound waves reach your ear, the curved shape of your outer ear:
    • Helps you determine which direction the sounds are coming from
    • Encourages the sound waves to travel into your ear canal.
  • When the sounds waves reach the eardrum – a stretched membrane inside your inner ear – it directs them to three small bones in the inner ear: the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup.
  • These bones transfer the vibrations into a tube called the cochlea, which is lined with tiny nerve endings that look like fine hairs. These nerve endings transfer the vibrations via the auditory nerves to the brain, where they are interpreted as sounds.


Anatomy of the ear


Video tour of the ear