How we hear

How do we hear?

If you have recently realized that you could be suffering from hearing loss, but can’t understand how this could have happened, you might want to get a little bit closer to your ears, and have a look inside. Most of us have never seen the inside of an ear, and have no idea how it works, or what each part does. 

Having a better understanding of hearing loss begins by understanding how we hear. The diagram below shows what an ear looks like on the inside, and below it is some information about how it all works, and the steps involved in hearing.

hearing test appointment


  • The sound waves are collected by the outer ear, and channeled along the ear canal to the eardrum.
  • When sound waves reach the eardrum, the impact creates vibrations which are transferred through a series of three tiny bones.
  • The third of these bones is connected to a delicate, snail-shaped structure called the cochlea. The cochlea is filled with fluid and lined with thousands of microscopic hairs. The vibrations are transmitted to the fluid in the cochlea, where the hair cells are bent by the wave-like action of fluid inside the cochlea. The bending of these hairs sets off nerve impulses that are then passed through the auditory nerve.
  • The auditory nerve carries the signal to the hearing centre of the brain, which translates the impulses into what we perceive as “sounds”.

When you see how the ear works, and imagine the delicate bones and tiny microscopic hairs that contribute to your ability to hear, it gives you a better idea of how important each part of the process is. If there is an issue anywhere within this delicate process (even something as simple as a build up of fluid within the ear canal), it can greatly impact your ability to hear as well as you could.