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How Does Sound Travel Through The Ear To The Brain

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Movement Is Created In The Middle Ear

Journey of Sound to the Brain

Once the sound has moved through the ear canal, it enters the middle ear and into the eardrum. The eardrum sends vibrations to the ossicles, which are tiny bones in the middle ear called the malleus, incus, and stapes. Pitch and volume both determine the amount of vibration of the eardrum produces to send to the ossicles. As these tiny bones move, they send a signal to the inner ear for analysis.

Top Best Answers To The Question How Do Sound Waves Travel Through The Ear

  • Sound waves enter the outer ear and travel through a narrow passageway called the ear canal, which leads to the eardrum. The eardrum vibrates from the incoming sound waves and sends these vibrations to three tiny bones in the middle ear.
  • Sound waves enter the outer ear and travel through a narrow passageway called the ear canal, which leads to the eardrum. The eardrum vibrates from the incoming sound waves and sends these vibrations to three tiny bones in the middle ear. These bones are called the malleus, incus, and stapes. The bones in the middle ear amplify,…
  • The sound waves arrive at the pinna , the only visible part of the ear. 2. Once the sound waves have passed the pinna, they move into the auditory canal before hitting the tympanic membrane . 3. Once the sound waves reach the tympanic membrane, it begins to vibrate and they enter into the middle ear.
  • Sound Waves and the Eardrum. This high intensity sound wave causes a large vibration of the eardrum and subsequently a large and forceful vibration of the bones of the middle ear. This high amplitude vibration is transmitted to the fluid of the inner ear and encoded in the nerve signal which is sent to the brain.

Those who are looking for an answer to the question «How do sound waves travel through the ear?» often ask the following questions:

The Inner Ear Signals The Brain

After the movement in the middle ear signals the inner ear, the process of hearing becomes delicate as electrical impulses are created. This is a multi-step and fascinating process that affects both the ability to properly process sounds and to maintain proper balance.

  • Cochlea. This inner ear bone contains fluid and tiny hairs. When the ossicles move, the fluid inside the cochlea moves in a certain pattern to stimulate different hair according to pitch.
  • Auditory nerve. The hair cell movement creates electrical signals that move down the auditory nerve to the brain. The electrical signal differs according to the pattern of hair cell movement.
  • Brain. Once the electrical signal reaches the brain, it interprets the signal as a sound and determines association. Sound processing occurs in the temporal lobe of the brain.

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How Can I Keep My Hearing Healthy

To protect your hearing, you should:

  • Use hearing protection devices during louder activities, including concerts, riding motorcycles or snowmobiles, or working with loud machinery.
  • When listening to personal music players, keep the volume level low enough that you can hear people speaking around you. Another good rule is not to exceed 80% volume for more than 90 minutes a day.
  • Do not stick anything into your ear canal including cotton swabs. Anything in your ear canal can cause a ruptured eardrum or become lodged in the ear canal.
  • Avoid smoking, which can impair circulation and harm your hearing.
  • Get regular exercise to help prevent health issues like diabetes or high blood pressure that can cause hearing problems.
  • Manage any chronic illnesses to prevent further damage.

Outer Hair Cell Electromotility

Path taken by sound waves reaching the inner ear Sound travels from the ...

Drawing of outer hair cells showing the effect of different internal pressures. The outer hair cell is divided in three parts. The top part is capped with a flat plate into which the stereocilia are inserted. The base of the cell is hemispheric. It contains the cell nucleus and synaptic structures for communicating with the central nervous system. The middle part of the cell is cylindrical in shape. The shape of the outer hair cell is maintained by a pressurized fluid core that pushes against an elastic wall. The wall is reinforced by additional layers of cytoskeletal material and membranes . If the cell is at a normal pressure as on the left it will shorten and become fatter when there is an increase in intracellular fluid. When fluid is lost the cell elongates and the sides of the cell collapse from the loss of pressure.

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How Hearing Works: Noise Becomes Signal

Lets follow a sound wave through the ear to get a better understanding of how ears work and what role they play in the hearing process.

Step one: The outer part of the ear captures a sound wave and funnels it through the ear canal, where it strikes the tympanic membrane .

Step two: The sound wave causes the eardrum and the three small ossicles bones within the middle ear to vibrate. The movement of the ossicles amplifies the sound waves as they are transmitted to the entrance of the inner ear, known as the oval window.

Step three: The vibrations travel through the fluid in the cochlea and move the tiny hair cells there. The movement of these hair cells creates electrical impulses that travel along the auditory nerve to the brains hearing center, where they are interpreted as sounds.

Hearing Sound From Over Here Or Over There

One important function of human ears, as well as the ears of other animals, is their ability to funnel sounds from the environment into the ear canal. Though the outer ear funnels sound into the ear, this is most efficient only when sound comes from the side of the head . When hearing a sound from an unknown source, humans typically turn their heads to point their ear toward where the sound might be located. People often do this without even realizing it, like when you are in a car and hear an ambulance, then move your head around to try to locate where the siren is coming from. Some animals, like dogs, are more efficient at locating sound than humans are. Sometimes animals can even physically move their ears in the direction of the sound!

You can explore this through a fun activity. Close your eyes and ask a parent or friend to jingle a set of keys somewhere around your head. Do this several times, and each time, try to point to the location of keys, then open your eyes and see how accurate you were. Chances are, this is easy for you. Now cover up one ear and try it again. With only one ear available, you may find that the task is harder, or that you are less precise in pointing to the right location. This is because you have muffled one of your ears, and therefore weakened your ability to use signals about the timing or intensity of the sounds reaching each ear.

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Tinnitus In The Brain

Our brain may also play an important role when it comes to tinnitus.A research team has been able to eliminate tinnitus in a group of rats by stimulating a nerve in the neck and playing a variety of sound tones over a period of time. The therapy, which is similar to pressing a reset button in the brain, was found to help retrain the part of the brain that interprets sound so that errant neurons reverted back to their original state and the ringing disappeared.Another research team found that tinnitus is generated not by the ear, but by neurons firing in the brain.Tinnitus is not generated by processes in the ear, but by changes in the brain when hearing loss occurs, one of the researchers said.

What Is The Path Of Sound Through The Ear

How the Ears Work – Nemours KidsHealth

A sound wave enters the outer ear, then goes through the auditory canal, where it causes vibration in the eardrum. The vibration makes three bones in the middle ear move. The movement causes vibrations that move through the fluid of the cochlea, which is located in the inner ear. The vibrations stimulate small hair cells in the inner ear, which transforms them into electrical impulses the brain interprets as sound.

The eardrum is also known as the tympanic membrane. The three tiny bones in the middle ear are collectively referred to as the ossicles. Their individual names are the malleus, also known as the hammer the incus, also known as the anvil and the stapes, also known as the stirrup. The hair cells located in the inner ear each have 100 to 200 cilia at the top. Cilia are sensory organs, and the longest cilia have tectorial membranes at the top, which move back and forth with sound cycles.

Sound travels as a wave through the outer and middle ear before transforming into an electrical impulse. The first area of the brain that receives auditory input is the primary auditory cortex. It contains neurons that interpret sound information from the ears. The primary auditory cortex is surrounded by and connected with the secondary auditory cortex.

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Whats Happening When You Have Problems With Your Hearing

Hearing well depends on all parts of our auditory system working normally so that sound can pass through the different parts of the ear to the brain to be processed without any distortion. The type of hearing problem you have depends on which part of your auditory system is not responding well.

If you have a problem in the outer or middle ear, it means that there is inefficient transfer of sound to the cochlea in the inner ear. Generally, this affects the volume of sound so that it simply doesnt seem loud enough.

A typical example would be the effect of a blockage of wax in the ear canal or a perforated eardrum. This is called a conductive hearing loss because sound vibrations are not being conducted efficiently. The cochlea is still working normally but simply not receiving enough information via its connection with the middle ear.

If the problem is somewhere between the cochlea in the inner ear and the brain, this is called a sensorineural hearing loss. The pathway through the outer and middle ears is functioning normally but, after sound arrives at the cochlea, it isnt processed normally either because of damage to the delicate hair cells in the cochlea or to the auditory nerve or because of defects in the auditory pathway leading to the brain.

It is also possible to have both conductive and sensorineural hearing loss and this is generally called a mixed hearing loss.

For more detail about types of hearing loss, see our causes of hearing loss page.

Physics Of The Ear: Loss Of Hearing

The most common issue is the loss of hearing. This happens naturally with age – a child has a spectrum of hearing that goes from 20Hz to 20KHz, while an adult won’t hear sounds above approximately 15KHz. Human hearing is limited by its physical characteristics but also by evolution as most of the human senses work in the range that is useful for us to receive and analyze information.

After aging, loud sounds are the leading cause of hearing loss. These can cause damage instantly or are partially harmful, leading to more severe damage with exposure over time. The threshold of pain begins at 130dB. Damage occurs immediately when the sound pressure is 140dB or more. For instance, it takes just one rifle shot to cause a gap in hearing of around 5KHz. Hunters often experience this.

Another malfunction of hearing is tinnitus. This is described as hearing sounds such as ringing or hissing where there is no cause for the sound. Tinnitus can be caused by exposure to loud noises.

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The Physical Elements Of Sound

  • Figure 1 – Amplitude and frequency represented as waves.
  • Amplitude is the strength of the vibrations as they travel through the air the greater the amplitude, the louder the sound is perceived by the observer. Frequency is the speed at which a sound wave vibrates, which determines the perceived pitch of the noise the greater the frequency, the higher the pitch of the sound.

Sound waves interact in fascinating ways with the environment around us. Have you ever noticed how an ambulances siren sounds different when it is in the distance compared with when the ambulance approaches and passes you? This is because it takes time for sound to travel from one point to another, and the movement of the sound source interacts with the frequency of the waves as they reach the person hearing it. When the ambulance is far away, the frequency of the siren is low, but the frequency increases as the ambulance approaches you, which is a phenomenon known as the Doppler effect .

  • Figure 2 – How sound wave frequencies are affected as a siren approaches or travels away from an individual.
  • As the ambulance approaches an individual, the frequency of the sound increases and therefore is perceived as having a higher pitch. As the ambulance drives further away from an individual, the frequency decreases, causing the sound to be perceived as having a lower pitch.

Now Lets Think About This Process And Hearing Loss

What is Sound? Understanding the Nature of Sound and Soundwaves.

Think of hearing loss as a doorway issue because remember the ears are simply the doorway or path to the brain.

With hearing loss this doorway or path is obstructed to different degrees. Once obstructed even slightly the sound does not reach the brain with the intended high intensity it needed to turn the sound into auditory information. This doorway obstruction to any degree interferes with auditory information reaching the brain.

The good news is hearing aids, cochlear implants, FM systems, bone anchored devices help break through that obstruction and delivers auditory information to the brain.

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How Does Hearing Work

Think of some of your favorite sounds: the voice of a loved one, the jingle of an ice cream truck, the song you danced to on your wedding day. How exactly do all different soundsmusic, laughter, birdsong, voicestravel through the air and wind through our ears to reach our brains? In short, how does hearing work?

Brian Hill, MS, MBA, CCC/A, FAAA

Audiologist, Director of Professional Services and Training

All the sounds we hear begin as waves or vibrations. These sound waves come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. If you ring a tiny bell, for instance, the rapid vibrations caused by the metal being struck will create a high-frequency sound wave that produces a high-pitched ring. If you strike a bass drum, the relatively slower vibrations of the drums surface will send out a low-frequency sound wave that produces a low-pitched boom.

The human brain can hear as many as 7,000 distinct pitches, each created by a sound wave with its own unique frequency. When we hear sounds, its a result of these sound waves entering our ear canals and beginning an intricate process of transforming into signals that our brains can interpret and understand. To understand how that process works, we first need to get familiar with the basic anatomy of the ear.

It’s A Noisy Planet Protect Their Hearing

This national public education campaign is designed to increase awareness among parents of children ages 8 to 12 about the causes and prevention of noise-induced hearing loss. With this information, parents and other adults can encourage children to adopt healthy hearing habits before and during the time that they develop listening, leisure, and working habits.

It’s a Noisy Planet. Protect Their Hearing.® and the Noisy Planet logo are registered trademarks of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

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How Does The Human Ear Guess The Source Of The Sound

Suppose a sound is produced behind you. You can easily tell that the sound came from behind.

Our ear lobes face towards the front and hence traps the sound waves which come from the front. Yet, we can detect that the sound came from behind. We can claim that the sound which was produced behind the person was reflected by some object to enter the ear but now the new question is how does the ear know if the sound was refelected by that object or if the sound was produced by the object?

How does the ear differentiate between the sounds which are produced behind the person and the sounds which are produced in front of the person?

Or in general, how does the ear identify the location of the source?

  • $\begingroup$Believed to be due to the shape of head and outer ear which means different frequencies are detected slightly differently . Basically sounds behind are muffled slightly more by your ear than sounds directly in front. It’s more a question of neurology than physics$\endgroup$Aug 6, 2017 at 14:24
  • 3Aug 6, 2017 at 14:30
  • 1

This process does not involve or require movement of the head and can be demonstrated even if one ear is blocked.

The human head in the vicinity of the ear plays a role in this as well and the directional encoding process which includes the effects of the outer ear and the head is referred to in the psychoacoustics field as the head-modulated transfer function or HMTF.

This description of the processing makes it clearer:

You state:

Sound Moves Through The Middle Ear

The Ear | Waves | Physics | FuseSchool

Behind the eardrum is the middle ear. In this part of the ear’s anatomy, sound waves are amplified before they are delivered to the inner ear.

Heres how that process unfurls: The eardrum is attached to a chain of three small bones, known as the ossicles. These three bones are the smallest ones in your body. When the eardrum vibrates in response to sound waves, these bones are set into motion as well.

The bone directly attached to the eardrum is the malleus , which is connected at its other end to the incus . The incus, in turn, is attached to the stapes . The shapes of the ossicles provide inspiration for their nicknames.

This last bonethe stapesis connected to theoval window, which is a membrane separating the middle ear from the inner ear.

The orientation of the three bones allows them to function as a lever, amplifying the sound energy as it moves from the relatively large tympanic membrane to the relatively small oval window.

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