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How Our Hearing Works

Our hearing involves a wonderful, even awe-inspiring mechanical electrical process, of transmitting sounds to the brain. Here is where they are deciphered, and meaning is attributed to them.  Our ear can detect even very faint sounds, which helps us to relate to the world around us. Not to be minimised is the fact that our hearing helps us to avoid dangers too.

So, how exactly does the ear and hearing mechanism work?

 Five Sections of the Hearing Mechanism

  1. Outer ear
  2. Middle ear
  3. Inner ear
  4. Acoustic nerve
  5. Brain’s auditory processing centers.

The outer ear consists of the pinna, or auricle and the ear canal (external auditory meatus). The pinna - the "ear" that we see on each side of our heads - is made of cartilage, which is soft and pliable. The pinna serves as a collector of sound energy around us, and funnels the vibrations into the ear canal.

The ear canal is about an inch long and ¼ inch in diameter. It extends from the pinna to the eardrum (tympanic membrane). The outer part of the ear canal is cartilage covered with skin that contains hairs and glands that secrete oil (cerumen). This oil hardens into the wax we are probably all too aware of. The hairs and wax help to prevent foreign bodies, such as insects or dust, from entering the ear canal. Near the eardrum (tympanic membrane), the wall of the ear canal becomes bony and covered by an extremely thin layer of skin.

The middle ear begins with the eardrum at the end of the ear canal. The middle ear contains three tiny bones called the ossicles. These three bones form a connection from the eardrum to the inner ear. As sound waves hit the eardrum, it moves back and forth causing the ossicles to move. Thus the sound wave is changed to a mechanical vibration.

The first bone, the hammer (malleus) is connected to the eardrum. The hammer connects to the the anvil (incus), and then the anvil connects to the third bone, the stirrup (stapes). The mechanical energy transmitted through the three bones (ossicular chain) causes the in-and-out movement of the base of the stirrup (stapes footplate) in harmony with those of the incoming sound waves. The stapes footplate fits into the oval window, the beginning point of the inner ear.

The inner ear contains the sensory organs for hearing and balance. The cochlea is the hearing part of the inner ear. The semicircular canals, the utricle and the saccule are the balance part of the inner ear. The cochlea is a bony structure shaped like a snail and filled with fluid (endolymph and perilymph). The Organ of Corti is the sensory receptor inside the cochlea which holds the hair cells, the nerve receptors for hearing.

The mechanical energy from movement of the middle ear bones pushes in a membrane (the oval window) in the cochlea. This force moves the cochlea's fluids that, in turn, stimulate tiny hair cells. Individual hair cells respond to specific sound frequencies so that, depending on the pitch (frequency) of the sound, only certain hair cells are stimulated.

Signals from these hair cells are translated into nerve impulses. The nerve impulses are transmitted to the brain by the cochlear portion of the acoustic nerve (VIII cranial nerve).

The acoustic nerve carries impulses from the cochlea to a relay station in the mid-brain, the cochlear nucleus, and on to other brain pathways that end in the auditory cortex of the brain. At the cochlear nucleus, nerve fibres from each ear divide into two pathways. One pathway ascends straight to the auditory cortex on one side (hemisphere) of the brain. The other pathway crosses over and ascends to the auditory cortex on the other side (hemisphere) of the brain. As a result, each hemisphere of the brain receives information from both ears. This is also referred to as binaural hearing.

The central auditory system deals with the processing of auditory information as it is carried up to the brain. Central auditory processes are the auditory processes responsible for the following behaviours:

  • Sound localisation and lateralisation
  • Auditory discrimination (hearing the differences between different sounds)
  • Recognizing patterns of sounds
  • Time aspects of hearing (temporal aspects of audition): temporal resolution, temporal masking, temporal integration, temporal ordering
  • Reduction in auditory performance in the presence of competing acoustic signals
  • Reduction in auditory performance in the presence of degraded (less than complete) acoustic signals


Paul & Julie


Hello, Paul and Julie Rees here, and welcome to our web site.

As an independent business, we are not tied to any one manufacturer. If you have a need or preference for a certain product or service, we will always strive to accommodate this if appropriate to your needs.

We will always treat you with respect and genuinely care for your needs as fully as humanly possible.

Our research, driven by genuine customer care over the last 7 years or more, indicates that we have achieved an extremely high success rate in treating tinnitus. In fact it has become so successful that we have started a new business dedicated to a greater focus upon treating this condition.

This business, called Rees Lewis Tinnitus and Hearing LTD, will have a dedicated centre here in Swansea. Watch this space for further information.

We can provide a tailored rental scheme for non-custom made Aids if you prefer this to purchase options.

We can also offer you a trial period before you purchase

We promise to always give unbiased and honest advice, no matter what you decide to do.

Julie and I emphasise service above sales and pride ourselves in providing the highest level of service available anywhere.To confirm this fact,over 95% of our clients have become such by recommendation so far. We also have low overheads, and exceptional discounts from the manufacturers.

This means we offer very competitive prices.

We also provide rental options and interest-free payments. Please ask for information.

Call us on 0800 040 7492 or email: info@uhear.co.uk

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