About Hearing – A simple explanation of a very complicated process

About Hearing – A simple explanation of a very complicated process

Hearing is one of our most vital senses. Communication is essential to being human. It connects us to the world, binds us to those that make up our community and enables us to experience a full and abundant life.

It begins with sound

Sounds are waves of energy that travel as a vibration through the air and are collected by your outer ear. Sound waves hit the eardrum which is connected to the three bones of the middle ear. These bones transmit the vibration to the oval window which connects the middle ear to the inner ear, where sound vibrations are sensed and turned into meaningful words.

When the vibrations hit the oval window, fluid within the inner ear moves, carrying the energy through a delicate, snail-shaped structure called the cochlea. It is here that thousands of microscopic hair cells are bent by the wave-like action of the fluid inside. The bending of these hairs sets off nerve impulses, which are then passed through the auditory nerve to the hearing centre of the brain. The brain uses memory and our other senses to turn those nerve impulses into meaningful sound. Just like when you hear a nursery rhyme from your childhood, it can bring back many memories and feelings associated with it.

If any part of this delicate system breaks down, hearing loss can be the result.