Hearing 101

The human body has 5 different senses and one of those involving some of the body’s most delicate parts is the sense of hearing. When sound travels and the ear catches it, several things happen in such a short amount of time. It’s a surprising fact, considering how fast we can receive sound and interpret it. Knowing how it happens helps us not only appreciate this ability but understand any issues with hearing that people around us have. Even when we’re not the ones who have hearing problems, we’re directly affected by the effect on our loved ones’ lives. So what’s the entire process?

How Sound Works

We might be familiar with sound waves as ripples in the air courtesy of cartoons and movies and, in a sense, they are. The movement of sound is the movement of the air particles carrying the energy of the vibration. Try snapping your fingers or clapping your hands. Once you make the sound, the air particles around it move, which moves the other air particles around them in turn. It’s like a crowd moving along with people pushing and bumping into each other. This is how sound reaches your ear.

The outer ear, or the pinna, is responsible for catching sound. No two are alike and your outer ear’s design helps you determine from which direction the sound is coming. When it gets a sound, it then leads it through the ear’s funnel into the ear canal where it travels along until it hits the eardrum.

What We Experience

Upon impact, the eardrum creates more vibrations like what happens when you hit the snare of a drum. The new vibrations cause three bones in the ear to move. One of them is called the stirrup and is the smallest among the three. It’s lodged in the oval-shaped opening between the middle ear and the inner ear. The movement of the stirrup causes this area, called the oval window, to move as well. When that happens, liquid in the inner ear carries the same energy carried by the air particles through the cochlea or the snail-like part of the inner ear.

Inside the cochlea are tiny hair particles which the liquid touch and bend. This sends off signals sent to the auditory nerve then to the portion of the brain that decodes sounds. That’s how we’re able to identify one from another like the honking of a car from the laughter of a child or tell between the different voices of friends and family.

Being a unified and complex system like a well-oiled machine, a problem with any of these parts involved or a blockage in any area would easily result in hearing problems. That’s why ear care begins with how well we treat our outer ear. If you think you may have hearing loss, whether it’s mild or more, it’s best to see a trained expert to prevent any further damage. Call Beltone Audiology today at (888) 210-5846 to schedule a consultation with one of our trusted professionals.