How hearing works

hearingHow does hearing work?

All sounds begin as sound waves. For instance, if you strike a bass drum the result is a low pitch sound produced by a low frequency wave. The opposite is true if you hit a small bell. The results are a high pitched sound produced by a high frequency wave.

Depending on the person, the brain is able to recognize around 7000 uniques pitches.  To fully understand how the body processes sound, we first need to learn some basic anatomy of the ear.

How Sound Waves Travel to the Brain

Step one: The outer ear acts as a funnel to delivery sound to the middle ear.  The sound wave enters the ear and then strikes the ear drum.

Step two: The waves cause the ear drum to vibrate which, in turn causes the small bones (ossicles) of the middle ear to move and vibrate.  The vibration of the ossicles amplifies the wave again before the sound is delivered to the inner ear.

Step three: The vibrations travel through the fluid in the inner ear organs.  This creates movement of hair cells which, in turn creates electrical impulses that travel to the brain via the auditory nerve.

The Brains Job

As the electric signals travel to the brain they go to more organized centers such as the thalamus, that helps to direct the sensory information.

The signals then travel to the temporal lobes which help to unpack ever more information such as voice recognition, tone, and specific language. 

Finally, all of this data is sent to the prefrontal cortex where the brain can fully process the sound and help to declare it to memory.

What We Perceive

Humans can only process a limited range of frequencies which is believed to occur to prevent us from having sensory overload.
The frequency range of human hearing is generally between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz.
High-frequency sounds are usually lost first in the elderly who have hearing loss.  High-frequency hearing loss will make it difficult to understand women’s and children’s voices or perceive consonants such as S, F, or H.
A LifeSound Hearing professional will be able to give you a hearing test and audiogram which will help to determine your specific hearing difficulties.

Loud Noise Exposure?

Many individuals believe that if a noise is only present for a brief amount of time, it will not cause auditory harm and that wearing ear protection is unnecessary.
However, every time you are exposed to loud noise, you are increasing your chances of developing hearing loss.
When using a leaf blower, you can harm your hearing in just 30 seconds.
That noisy nightclub could cause irreversible harm after 30 minutes.
You’re mistaken if you believe you’re immune to the dangers of loud noises or that the sounds you hear every day are safe.

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