Understanding how we hear starts with understanding how the ear works. There are three parts to the ear, outer ear, middle ear and inner ear.
The outer ear consists of the pinna (the part of the ear we can see on the side of the head) and the ear canal. The eardrum is located at the end of the ear canal. The main job of the outer ear is to collect sound waves and send them down the ear canal to the eardrum.
The middle ear includes the eardrum and three small bones. They are located in an air filled space surrounded by the bones of the skull. Their job is to amplify the sound waves and send them to the inner ear.
The inner ear is located in a snail shaped bone deep inside the head. This boney section is filled with a fluid. The hearing nerves called haircells are in this part of the ear. Sound travels through the inner ear by setting up waves in the fluid. These waves “wash” over the haircells, stimulating them. The stimulated nerve fibers change sound into electrical impulses that travel to the brain. It is the brain that assigns meaning to the sounds and words. We hear in the brain. It recognizes familiar voices and birds, understands words and enjoys music.