By Dr. Mercola
It’s easy to take your hearing for granted, but the complex process that occurs when your ears pick up a sound and translate it into information your brain can understand is truly remarkable.
Interestingly, while some of your senses, like your sense of smell, vision, and taste, involve chemical reactions, your ability to hear does not. Instead, physical movements are responsible for your ability to hear.
How Hearing Works
Your ears capture sound traveling through the air as vibrations in air pressure. The outer part of your ear, or pinna, catches the sound waves first. The structure of your outer ear bounce sounds in different patterns depending on whether they come from behind you, above you or below you.
Your brain learns to recognize these distinctive patterns to alert you, first, where a sound is coming from. Your brain can also determine whether the sound is coming from the left or right depending on which ear it arrives at first. As noted by How Stuff Works:1
“Many mammals, such as dogs, have large, movable pinnae that let them focus on sounds from a particular direction. Human pinnae are not so adept at focusing on sound. They lay fairly flat against the head and don’t have the necessary muscles for significant movement.
But you can easily supplement your natural pinnae by cupping your hands behind your ears. By doing this, you create a larger surface area that can capture sound waves better.”
Your Fascinating Eardrum
Once sound waves pass your outer ear, they enter your ear canal and trigger vibrations to your eardrum, a thin piece of skin that sits between the ear canal and your middle ear.
Your eardrum vibrates faster from high-pitch sounds while loud sounds move your eardrum back-and-forth a greater distance. But
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