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The Hearing Process

The Hearing Process

The hearing process is quite remarkable. The ear is made up of thousands of hairs, nerves and cells. It picks up sound waves and sends them to your brain to process almost instantly…

What is a sound wave?

A sound wave is a wave of compression where sound is carried. It’s a movement of energy that can travel through air, water, liquid or solids. It starts off as a sound ( a phone ringing or a person’s voice for example) that vibrates and disturbs particles in the surrounding medium which ultimately carries the sound.

How we hear in 10 steps

  1. Invisible sound waves travel through the air into our ear canal and into the ear drum.
  2. The ear drum vibrates from the sound.
  3. The vibrations are sent to three tiny bones in the middle of the ear (malleus, incus and stapes).
  4. These bones amplify the sound vibrations.
  5. The amplified vibrations are sent to the cochlea (a snail-shaped structure filled with fluid, in the inner ear).
  6. There’s an elastic divide that splits the cochlea into an upper and lower part. This is called the basilar membrane.
  7. When the vibrations in the cochlea cause the fluid to ripple, a moving wave forms along the basilar membrane.
  8. Hair cells (sensory cells located on top of the basilar membrane) ride that wave.
  9. As the hair cells move up and down, microscopic hair-like projections (known as stereocilia) bump into each other and begin to bend.
  10. The bending opens up channels that release chemicals and send signals to the brain where the sound is processed.

The Three Types of Hearing Loss 2

Learn more about each part of the ear here.

Isn’t it amazing how hard our ears work every second to process sounds around us? That’s why it’s important to protect them.

What causes hearing loss?

Usually hearing loss occurs when damage is done to any part of the hearing pathway. There are many things that cause hearing loss such as noise, toxic medications, infection and ageing. Check out our blog on NIHL (noise-induced hearing loss) to learn more about this or click this link for other causes. If you’re concerned about your hearing or the hearing of a loved one, get in touch with us for a free hearing test today.

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