How 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.
Parts of the Ear
The ear is made of 3 main components. The outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear all work in unison to help us hear sound. To get a more in depth view of this process visit our page: anatomy of the ear.
How Hearing Works: 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.
How Hearing Works: 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.