How We Hear

How does our hearing work?

(Used with permission from MED-EL Austria.)

Your ears pick up sound which travels in invisible waves through the air. Sound occurs when a moving or vibrating object causes the air around it to move.

Sound waves travel down the ear canal and hit the eardrum in the middle ear. This causes the eardrum to vibrate. Three tiny bones in your middle ear link the vibrating eardrum to the cochlea in the inner ear.

The cochlea is filled with liquid that carries the vibrations to thousands of tiny hair cells sitting on a membrane that stretches the length of the cochlea. The hair cells on the membrane fire off tiny electrical signals. These electrical signals travel up the cochlea nerves of the auditory pathway to the brain. All this happens in a fraction of a second.