Understanding How Your Ears Work
At Hearing Aid Counselors, we are here to help you through all aspects of hearing health and hearing loss. We believe the education is the key to understanding your hearing and that helps you make the best decisions. A big part of that is understanding how your ears work. You may not realize that hearing is actually a function of your brain working in conjunction with your ears. Read on to learn more about your ears and hearing.
Three Main Parts of the Ear
In order to understand how your ears work, first you should learn about the three main parts of the ear:
- Outer Ear: This is the part that is visible and also includes the external auditory canal.
- Middle Ear: The small, air-filled space that is inside the eardrum. It has 3 tiny bones called ossicles.
- Inner Ear: This is the inside part of the ear that includes the cochlea. It is responsible for changing sounds into neurological signals. The auditory nerve sends the sounds to the brain.
How We Hear
How we hear is a complicated practice that shows the complexity and amazing nature of the human body. Sounds send vibrations or sound waves into the air. Our ears are designed to funnel these sounds through the three main parts of our ears. The funneled sounds make their way to strike the eardrum and cause it to vibrate. Those vibrations are passed through the bones in the middle ear. The bones transmit them to the cochlea in the inner ear. The fluid inside the tubes of the cochlea and tiny hair cells convert the vibrations to nerve impulses which are sent to the brain through the hearing nerve. The brain then interprets the impulses into sounds.
Hearing and Your Brain
This might come as a surprise, but hearing is actually a function of your brain. The parts of your ears translate the sounds and send them to your brain for processing. You may think that all the hearing takes place in your ears, but your brain plays a big part in translating and interpreting sounds. Therefore it is a big part of understanding how your ears work. Here are the three areas of your brain that interpret sound and produce speech through your auditory system:
- The temporal lobe is where the primary auditory cortex is. It receives sensory information from the inner ear.
- Wernicke’s area is located in the temporal lobe. It is responsible for speech comprehension.
- Broca’s area is also located in the temporal lobe and is responsible for speech production.
Why We Hear
Why we hear is another key to understanding how ears work. Hearing governs a process that includes speech interpretation as well as determining sounds. There are four stages of how we use our hearing discovered by Dr. Ramsdell (source).
- Understanding speech – the symbolic level. Informs, educates and entertains.
- Appreciating sounds that please us – the aesthetic level. Gives pleasure.
- Recognising sounds that alert us – the warning level. Alerts and prepares.
- Recognising the changing background sounds of the world around us – the primitive level. Auditory background for daily living.
Still have questions? If you would like to speak with one of our experienced hearing health care professionals at Hearing Aid Counselors, contact us today to schedule an appointment. We help you understand how your ears work as part of our comprehensive plan that focuses on your hearing health.