How Hearing Works

The ear has three main parts or sections – the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. Each section has a specific function that allows sound waves that enter the ear to be transformed into electrical impulses that the brain can understand. The outer ear collects sound waves and directs them to the middle ear. The middle ear then amplifies the sound and transmits it to the inner ear. The inner ear converts the sound vibrations into electrical impulses that travel along the auditory nerve to the brain.

  1. The outer ear catches sound waves and directs them into the ear canal.
  2. The ear canal carries the sound waves to the eardrum (tympanic membrane).
  3. Sound waves cause the eardrum (tympanic membrane) to vibrate.
  4. The bones in the middle ear (malleus, incus and stapes) pick up these vibrations.
  5. Vibrations pass through the oval window to the cochlea, setting the fluid inside in motion. This causes special nerve cells to turn the sound waves into electrical impulses.
  6. The auditory nerve sends these electrical impulses to the brain where they are heard as sound.