How Do We Hear?

  • The ear is divided into three parts - the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear.

     Diagram of an ear.

    Sound waves travel through the ear canal and to the eardrum.  The sound waves cause the eardrum to vibrate and pass through the middle ear bones, which creates movement in the fluid of the inner ear.  This snail-shaped structure, called the cochlear, contains thousands of hair cells.  The movement of the hair cells sends electric signals from the inner ear up the auditory nerve to the brain.

    The brain then interprets these electrical signals as sound.

    The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) describes how we hear in greater detail.

    Raising Deaf Kids describes how we hear, which includes:

    • a description of the parts of the ear
    • a labeled picture of the ear
    • an explanation of how sound gets to our brains

    What Does the Ear Hear?

    • an ear with normal hearing can hear sounds as quiet as a whisper or as loud as a firecracker and sounds as low as thunder or as high as an opera singer hitting a high note
    • sounds are described in decibels and frequencies…
      • decibels (dB) are how quiet or loud a sound is
      • frequencies (measured in Hz) are how low or high in pitch sound is
    • Raising Deaf Kids describes "The Sounds We Hear", which includes:
      • facts about sound
      • what people with normal hearing can hear
      • what children with hearing loss can hear