Hearing Explained

Updated: Jan 13, 2021

Welcome to the first blog post of Aretha Buys Audiology!! To get started we thought it best to start at the beginning….. an explanation of how exactly the ear and hearing works. This post will describe the structures and working mechanisms of the hearing system which will be helpful in providing understanding before you visit an Audiologist. For patients who have already consulted with an Audiologist and had the information explained, this could serve as a good recap session 😊



How the ear works

The hearing system consists of three components which includes the outer, middle and inner ear.

  • The outer ear consists of the pinna, ear canal and eardrum.

  • The middle ear is a small, air-filled space containing three tiny bones called the malleus, incus and stapes (ossicles).

  • The inner ear consists of both hearing and balance structures. The hearing part of the inner ear and is called the cochlea, which contains many thousands of sensory cells (also known as hair cells) and is connected to the central hearing system by the hearing/auditory nerve.


How we hear

  • Vibrations or sound waves in the air around us, are collected by the pinna on the right and left side of our head after which it will be directed into the ear canals, this causes the eardrum to vibrate.

  • These vibrations lead to movement of the chain of tiny bones (the ossicles) – in the middle ear transferring the sound vibrations to the cochlea of the inner ear.

  • The cochlea (consisting of hair cells) are tuned to respond to different sounds based on their pitch/frequency.

  • Each hair cell perceives the pitch or frequency of sound to which it is tuned to respond, this generates nerve impulses which travel instantly along the auditory nerve.

  • These nerve impulses follow a complicated pathway to the brain where it is ultimately converted into meaningful sound.

All of this happens within a tiny fraction of a second, almost immediately after sound waves first enter our ear canals. It is true to say that we actually hear with our brain.



If you would like to know more or have any questions please feel free to contact us on 060 737 3787 or aretha@abaudiology.co.za.


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