Your ears collect and process sounds before sending signals to your brain.
In the brain, these electrical signals from sound are read as recognisable information – language for example, or music with pitches and tones.
The ear is made up of three different sections: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Here’s how they work.
The Outer Ear: Sound Waves
Sounds are collected by the outer ear (the part people can see), which is also known as the pinna or auricle. Ear wax is produced in the ear canal, which is part of the outer ear. Ear wax traps dirt to help keep the ear canal clean and has chemicals to protect the ear canal from infection.
The Middle Ear: Vibrations
The middle ear receives sound waves that travel through the ear canal from the outer ear. Its job is to collect these sound waves and convert them into vibrations that are sent to the inner ear. For this to happen, the eardrum, a thin piece of skin stretched tight like a drum, is needed.
The eardrum separates the outer ear from the middle ear and the ossicles, the three smallest bones in your body. Sound waves reaching the eardrum cause it to vibrate. This impacts the ossicles, which in turn pass the sound on to the inner ear.
The Inner Ear: Nerve Signals
Sound enters the inner ear as vibrations and moves into the cochlea, a small curled tube like a snail shell. The cochlea is filled with liquid, which is activated when the ossicles vibrate. This vibration causes the cochlea’s tiny cells, covered in tiny hairs, to move, creating nerve signals that the brain reads as recognisable sounds.
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