Hearing is one of the most amazing sensory functions.
While most of your senses require a chemical reaction to take place, hearing is all about mechanics.
The process of hearing can be summarized in just a few steps: it is the movement of sound from the environment to your outer ear to your middle ear to your inner ear, which then translates that sound into a signal your brain can understand. Here is a more detailed look at the most important steps in the hearing process:
- Sound travels from its source into your outer ear, which is shaped like a funnel to collect as much sound as possible.
- The sounds your outer ear collects enter into your ear canal, which, along with transmitting sound to your middle ear, produces earwax to keep the passageway clean and fully functioning.
- The sound hits your eardrum, which is a thin, tightly stretched piece of skin that turns sound into vibrations.
- Once vibrations are created, they transfer to the three tiny and delicate bones in your middle ear, called the ossicles.
- The ossicles send the sound vibrations from your middle ear to your inner ear, where they hit a tiny, curved, liquid-filled tube called the cochlea, which is covered in microscopic hairs.
- When the vibrations hit the cochlea, its tiny hairs and inner liquid translate the vibrations into a signal that your brain understands as sound.
- Your brain receives these signals from the cochlea and puts the message together into what you know as words, music and other noises.
Since the hearing system is so delicate, it is often susceptible to damage caused by age, loud noise, disease, infection, and many other factors. Hearing aids have been carefully developed over many decades to emulate and improve the body’s natural hearing system, which is why they are so effective for helping those with hearing loss regain their sense of hearing successfully.