How Does Hearing Work?

The sense of hearing is an incredible process. Discover how our ears and our brain work together so that we can hear the world around us.

How Hearing Works

How We Hear: Step-by-Step

Everything we hear starts as a sound wave. When sound waves reach our ears, they’re turned into signals that our brain can recognize. Every part of the ear plays an important part in the hearing process.


Step 1:
Outer Ear

Sound waves, which are vibrations, enter through the outer ear and reach the middle ear to vibrate the eardrum.

The Outer Ear

Step 2:
Middle Ear

The eardrum then vibrates the ossicles, which are small bones in the middle ear. The sound vibrations travel through the ossicles to the inner ear.

The Middle Ear

Step 3:
Inner Ear

When the sound vibrations reach the cochlea, they push against specialized cells known as hair cells. The hair cells turn the vibrations into electrical nerve impulses.

The Inner Ear

Step 4:
Auditory Nerve

The auditory nerve connects the cochlea to the auditory centers of the brain. When these electrical nerve impulses reach the brain, they are experienced as sound.

The Auditory Nerve
 How Hearing Works

The Wonders of Hearing

Our ears are constantly active. Because all the steps of hearing happen so fast, we can hear sound instantly. But if any part of this complex process doesn’t work, it can cause hearing loss.

Types of Hearing Loss

There are four main types of hearing loss. Find out more about each type, and see how hearing loss can be treated.

More on Hearing Loss Types