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How hearing works

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We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak


The organ of hearing is a complex system that consists of 2 ears and a brain. Hearing with both ears is called binaural hearing.

The ears transform sound waves and vibrations in the air into information that can be interpreted by your brain. It can perceive sounds that are barely audible and tolerate sounds that are very loud; it can differentiate subtle pitches, loudness, distance, and detect the direction of its source, truly amazing.

The anatomical layout of our ears delivers a 3 dimensional picture of sound to brain. This is where listening happens!


The ear is made up of three parts:

  • the outer ear (the external ear and the ear canal)
  • the middle ear (the ear drum and three very small bones)
  • the inner ear (the cochlea and auditory nerve)



From your Ear to your Brain

Hearing and listening are two very different processes. Hearing is passive and listening is a dynamic process of the brain. From the moment we are born, listening is the first communication skill we engage in and this is how we learn and develop spoken language.


The Art of Listening

Listening is a skill. It is our ability to select information with attention, intent and effort. It allows us to focus on the sound information we find useful whilst filtering out noises in the environment or background. For example, a person with normal hearing in a busy restaurant is always aware of the noise, but they have the natural ability to ignore this and focus on conversation without any effort.


“I can hear but I can’t understand”

The acoustic information that is delivered from the ear to the brain goes through a complex process of filtering, examining and analyzing. Once we make sense of the information received from the speaker and provide an appropriate reaction, the communication process is complete as there is a shared understanding between you and your conversation partner.


hearing and cognition

Cognition is a term referring to the brain processes involved in acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experiences and the senses. We live in an organized world of sound where cognition, attention, memory and the sense of hearing interact. Each plays a crucial role in listening.

There is growing evidence that shows a direct relationship between hearing and cognition. This relationship affects how well people use their hearing to function in everyday life.

More information on hearing and cognition


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