The anatomy of the ear is precisely shaped to capture sound waves and amplify them. When sound waves enter the ear they follow what might seem like a long and arduous path. But every “station” has a precise function. This is how it works:
- Sound waves are picked up by the outer ear, which is made up of the pinna and the ear canal.
- Sound is channeled to the eardrum, which vibrates when the sound waves touch it.
- The vibrations are picked up by three tiny bones known as the “ossicles”, which create a bridge from the eardrum to the inner ear.
- The vibrations move on to the cochlea – a spiral-shaped capsule housing a system of fluid-filled tubes.
- When the sound waves read the fluid it begins to move, setting thousands of tiny hair cells in motion.
- The movements of the hair cells are transformed into electrical impulses that travel along the auditory nerve to the brain.
- The brain decodes and interprets the electronic impulses, turning a stream of speech sounds into separate, recognizable words.