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How We Hear

The mechanism of hearing is fascinating, here is how we hear

The wonder of hearing explained, how we hear


Our sense of hearing is quite an astonishing thing, it involves our ear, nerve endings and brain centres. If there is a difficulty anywhere in this chain of hearing, it results in hearing loss. Let's take a closer look at the chain of hearing.

In synopsis

perilymph Movement of the stapes in the oval window produces compression waves within the perilymph.
vibrations These vibrations are translated by hair cells in the organ of corti into nerve impulses and sent via the cochlear nerve to the brain.
acoustic centres in the cerebral cortex Nerve impulses are sent through the brain stem and into the acoustic centres in the cerebral cortex of the opposite temporal lobe.

In a little more detail, sound waves enter your ear canal and strike your ear drum. This moves your ear drum which in turn moves the tiny bones within your middle ear. The movement of one of these bones, the stapes, produces compression waves within the perilymph of the cochlea (inner ear). Movement within the perilymph is transmitted to the endolymph producing vibrations in the basilar membrane which runs through the cochlea.

perilymph perilymph
perilymph

The vibrations of the Basilar membrane excite tiny hair cells which send nerve impulses via the cochlear nerve to the brain.

vibrations vibrations
vibrations vibrations

Those nerve impulses are sent through the brain stem and into the acoustic centres in the cerebral cortex of the opposite temporal lobe. Medial areas are responsible for high frequency recognition and more lateral areas of the coretx are responsible for low frequency recognition. While hearing happens in the ear, understanding happens in the brain.

acoustic centres in the cerebral cortex acoustic centres in the cerebral cortex acoustic centres in the cerebral cortex
acoustic centres in the cerebral cortex acoustic centres in the cerebral cortex acoustic centres in the cerebral cortex

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