Skip to main content

How sound waves reach the brain

Sound waves enter ear through ear canal to eardrum, to middle ear bones, and on to inner ear, and nerve impulse travels through cochlear nerve to brain.

Sound waves enter the ear through the ear canal. Then they strike the eardrum. The eardrum is what separates the ear canal from the middle ear.

The sound waves make the eardrum vibrate. The vibrations move to the bones of the middle ear. This boosts the sound and sends it to the inner ear.

The inner ear is a fluid-filled, curved space that is sometimes called the labyrinth. It contains the cochlea, the main sensory organ of hearing. Sound vibrations cause the fluid in the inner ear to move. This bends tiny hair cells (cilia) in the cochlea. The movement of the hair cells creates nerve impulses. These nerve impulses then travel along the cochlear nerve to the brain and are heard as sound.

Current as of: September 27, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.


PeaceHealth endeavors to provide comprehensive health care information, however some topics in this database describe services and procedures not offered by our providers or within our facilities because they do not comply with, nor are they condoned by, the ethics policies of our organization.