The human ear is a very complex system of canals, bones and hair cells that convert sound waves into electrical impulses that the brain translates into useful information.
What is Sound?
Sound waves are essentially air vibrations. There are two fundamental characteristics of a sound wave: frequency and volume. The faster sound waves vibrate, the higher the frequency and hence the higher the pitch. Frequency is measured in Hertz (Hz) and Volume is measured in Decibels (dB).
How does the Human Ear Hear?
Sound waves travel into the ear canal, through the eardrum and then through the cochlea. As the sound waves pass through the ear, the ear converts them into electrical impulses, which are then translated by the brain into useful information, such as speech or music. To do this, the ear uses three different sections, each designed perfectly to do a unique job. These three sections are the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear.
The Outer Ear
The outer ear consist of the auricle (Pinna), the ear canal and the eardrum. The function of the outer ear is to pick up sound vibrations, send them through the ear canal, causing the eardrum to vibrate.
The Middle Ear
The middle ear is composed of three tiny bones called the ‘ossicles’ (hammer, anvil and stirrup) that connect the eardrum to the inner ear. The vibrations from the eardrum are amplified by these tiny bones and passed through to the inner ear.
The Inner Ear
The snail-shaped cochlea is the main component of the inner ear. Thousands of hair cells are placed along the cochlea duct and are responsible for converting the sound vibrations from the middle ear into electrical impulses. These impulses are sent through the auditory nerve to the brain, which perceives them as sound.