The ear and the mechanism of hearing

The ear and the mechanism of hearing

The ear converts the vibrations of air into electric signals which are then processed by the brain.



hearing, ear, auditory system, sensory organ, perception, tonotopy, middle ear, inner ear, cochlear nerve, auditory pathway, auditory cortex, ear bones, snail, organ of Corti, ear canal, Eustachian tube, eardrum, hammer, anvil, stirrup, Reissner´s membrane, auricle, stimulus, signal, semicircular canal, human, biology

Related items


  • Which cranial nerve is called the vestibulocochlear nerve?
  • Where are the ossicles located?
  • What kind of sounds are absorbed at the base of the cochlea?
  • What frequency range can a healthy ear perceive?
  • True or false? Sound waves generate signals in the Eustachian tube.
  • Where are lower frequency vibrations generated by deep sounds absorbed?
  • Where is the sense of sound produced?
  • Which of the following bones is not one of the ossicles?
  • What type of tissue comprises the bulk of the auricle?
  • Where is the cochlea located?
  • In which part of the ear are electric signals generated?
  • True or false? The base of the stirrup fits into the oval window of the cochlea.
  • True or false? The Eustachian tube is also known as the auditory tube.
  • True or false? The outermost ossicle, connected to the eardrum, is the anvil.
  • True or false? Sounds of the same frequency are always absorbed at the same place in the cochlea.
  • True or false? The cochlea is filled with a fluid which is vibrated by the movement of the stirrup.
  • What connects the tympanic cavity with the pharyngeal cavity?
  • What separates the external ear from the middle ear?
  • In which lobe of the cerebral cortex is the auditory cortex located?


The mechanism of hearing


Ear bones


Organ of Corti



Sound is the vibration of air perceived by our ears. Healthy ears can perceive sound waves of frequencies from about 20 to 20,000 Hz. This range will become narrower due to ageing or noise exposure.

Sound waves create signals in the inner ear, which are transmitted to the auditory cortex by the cochlear nerve and auditory pathway. The sense of sound is produced in the auditory cortex.

Sound waves are directed into the external auditory canal by the auricle. Sound waves cause the eardrum, which closes the auditory canal, to vibrate. The vibration of the eardrum is transmitted to the cochlea by the ossicles - the hammer, the anvil and the stirrup.

The base of the stirrup fits snugly into the oval window of the cochlea. The basilar membrane is located inside the cochlea. It runs along the tip of the cochlea, where it turns back and continues in Reissner's membrane. The membranes divide the cochlea longitudinally into three cavities: the scala tympani, the scala media and the scala vestibuli.

The chochlea is filled with a fluid, which is vibrated by the stirrup. Higher frequency sounds cause vibrations of higher frequency in the liquid, which are absorbed in the initial section of the membrane. Lower frequency vibrations generated by deep sounds enter the cochlea and become absorbed closer to the tip. When a vibration is absorbed, an electrical signal is produced which is transmitted into the brain. The pitch of the sound is encoded by the site of absorption: this is called tonotopy.

Electrical signals are generated in the organ of Corti. Vibrations spreading inside the cochlea push the tectorial membrane against the hair cells found on the basilar membrane and bends them, generating a signal in the cells. Thus the organ of Corti transforms vibrations into electrical signals, which are transmitted into the brain by the cochlear nerve, and then into the auditory cortex by the auditory pathway. Finally, the sense of sound is produced in the cerebral cortex.

Related items

Connective tissues

Connective tissues include loose and dense connective tissues, adipose tissue, blood,...

Structure of skeletal muscles

This animation demonstrates the fine molecular structure and mechanism of muscles.

Tooth brushing

Careful tooth brushing is an important part of oral hygiene.

The heart

The heart is the central pump of the cardiovascular system beating several billion times...

Eating healthy

The composition, operation and stamina of the human body and the way one feels greatly depend on...

Anatomy of the spinal cord

The spinal cord is the part of the central nervous system running inside the spinal...

The skull and the spine

The two main parts of the central nervous system, the brain and the spinal cord are...

How do we hear?

This lesson helps you understand the process of hearing.

Added to your cart.