Our ears are among the body’s most complex organs. They receive and transmit sound waves to the brain where they are analyzed and interpreted.
But how does our hearing actually work? The video below shows how sound waves travel through the ear – from the outer ear, through the middle ear and into the inner ear.
Stage 1 – The outer ear
The outer ear collects sound waves and directs them into the ear canal. Here they are amplified by the canal’s funnel-like shape and channelled on to the eardrum.
Stage 2 – The middle ear
On reaching the eardrum, the sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate, transmitting the sound to three tiny bones located in the middle ear. These bones are commonly referred to as the hammer, anvil, and stirrup and they connect the eardrum to a membrane between the middle and inner ear, known as the “oval window”.
The movement of the oval window transmits the pressure waves of sound into the inner ear.
Stage 3 – The inner ear
The inner ear is fluid-filled and consists of the spiral-shaped “cochlea”.
The passageways of the cochlea are lined with about 20,000 microscopic hair cells that convert sound vibrations into nerve impulses. These impulses are then sent to the brain which interprets the impulses as meaningful sounds.