ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Hearing - How Do We Hear Sound Waves?

Updated on May 11, 2013
Pictures courtesy of
Pictures courtesy of
Model of the eardrum, ossicles and cochlea
Model of the eardrum, ossicles and cochlea

The organs of hearing or audition are your ears. These, along with the cochlear nerves and brain, allow us to hear.

Sound waves enter the outer ear, which consists of the ear flap, made of cartilage and called the pinna, and the outer ear canal, which ends at the eardrum. The sound waves are reflected into the ear by the pinna, and travel along the ear canal.

The middle ear commences with the eardrum, or tympanum. The sound waves hit the eardrum, causing it to vibrate. The wave information is transmitted through the air filled middle ear cavity, across three tiny bones called ossicles, the smallest bones in your body. These are individually called the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil) and stapes (stirrup). The vibration from the eardrum causes them to move, transmitting the wave information to a membrane at the entrance of the inner ear called the oval window. This process changes the wave vibrations from low pressure to high pressure so they can be detected by the fluid filled inner ear.

The inner ear contains the cochlea, as well as non-hearing related structures. The movement of the oval window transmits the waves through the fluid of your inner ear into the fluid filled cochlea. Spiralling lengthwise through the cochlea is the organ of Corti, which is a membrane with thousands of sensory hair cells attached. Each hair cell contains a bundle of tiny sensory hairs which emerge from the cell. Lightly resting on top of these hairs is a second membrane. When the waves move the fluid in your cochlea, the first membrane vibrates, pushing the hairs against the second membrane. This changes the waves into nerve signals. These travel along the cochlear nerve to your brain.

Having two ears allows us to perceive where a sound is coming from. This is because sound waves will reach the ear closest to the source of the sound sooner, allowing the brain to interpret the location of the sound.

Hearing Test

Humans can usually hear sound at frequencies between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz (20kHz). As we get older, our ability to hear the high end of the range progressively diminishes. Most teenagers can no longer hear 20kHz, and the high range for most people gets progressively lower as they age.

Below is a video which allows you to test your hearing range. Do not play this too loudly, as the higher frequencies can be uncomfortable.

How to Choose a Hearing Aid : What a Hearing Aid Does

What Does The Cochlear Implant Do?

"Many people with hearing loss can use hearing aids to amplify sounds and help them hear. For some people with severe or profound sensori-neural deafness hearing aids do not help. These people may make use of the cochlear implant.

The cochlear implant replaces the function of the entire ear. It uses a microphone and directly stimulates any remaining hearing nerves using electricity to enable the brain to perceive sound."


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • profile image

      Harold Dotson 

      10 years ago

      Excellent post. Gradual Hearing Loss is sometimes a scary experience as quite a few of our fellow humans lose their ability to hear clearly regularly. Thanks for raising awareness.

    • fridayonmymind profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago

      Thank you very much for your feedback. It is appreciated.

    • profile image

      Houston Hearing Aids 

      11 years ago

      Very nice that I came across your hub! I need all these information and it looks like you've got it all in here. Thank you for your very good post!


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)