SoundSpace Online

The Auditory System

The auditory system is made up of all of the structures that are important for both hearing and understanding sound. The ear itself is comprised of three parts, the outer ear, middle ear and inner ear (see below for pictures). Please visit this Health Hype webpage for more information about the outer ear, and this Toledo Hearing Doctor webpage for more information about the outer, middle and inner ear.

However, there are other important structures that carry auditory information from the ear to the brain, including the auditory nerve and auditory pathways. The role of the auditory system is to detect and identify sounds, locate where they are coming from, and figure out which ones are important, and what they mean.

Once the information reaches the brain, there are specialized auditory areas in the cortex - although we now know that understanding spoken language involves the coordination and integration of information from many parts of the brain. We also know that information does not only travel from the ear to the brain; it also travels from the brain to the ear, helping with listening tasks such as understanding speech in noisy environments.

Please visit this Javitz3D YouTube video which gives a good demonstration of how sound is transmitted from the ear to the brain. It is important for children to learn about hearing – for children with hearing loss, understanding, and being able to explain, their own hearing loss is important for self-advocacy, and for children with typical hearing, learning about hearing protection helps prevent hearing loss related to noise exposure. Please also visit this KidsHealth YouTube video to show a fun way for kids to learn about how the ear works.