Hearing, auditory perception, or audition is the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations, changes in the pressure of the surrounding medium through time, through an organ such as the ear. Sound may be heard through solid, liquid, or gaseous matter. It is one of the traditional five senses; partial or total inability to hear is called hearing loss.

In humans and other vertebrates, hearing is performed primarily by the auditory system: mechanical waves, known as vibrations are detected by the ear and transduced into nerve impulses that are perceived by the brain (primarily in the temporal lobe). Like touch, audition requires sensitivity to the movement of molecules in the world outside the organism. Both hearing and touch are types of mechanosensation. Read more ...

In the News ...

Ending a 40-year quest, scientists reveal the identity of 'hearing' protein   Medical Express - August 22, 2018
Scientists at Harvard Medical School say they have ended a 40-year-quest for the elusive identity of the sensor protein responsible for hearing and balance.The results of their research, reported Aug. 22 in Neuron, reveal that TMC1, a protein discovered in 2002, forms a sound- and motion-activated pore that allows the conversion of sound and head movement into nerve signals that travel to the brain—a signaling cascade that enables hearing and balance. Scientists have long known that when the delicate cells in our inner ear detect sound and movement, they convert them into signals. Where and how this conversion occurs has been the subject of intense scientific debate. No more, the authors say.

Cat-like 'hearing' with device tens of trillions times smaller than human eardrum   - March 30, 2018
The advances will likely contribute to making the next generation of ultralow-power communications and sensory devices smaller and with greater detection and tuning ranges.

When the eyes move, the eardrums move, too   Medical Express - January 23, 2018
The researchers found that keeping the head still but shifting the eyes to one side or the other sparks vibrations in the eardrums, even in the absence of any sounds. Surprisingly, these eardrum vibrations start slightly before the eyes move, indicating that motion in the ears and the eyes are controlled by the same motor commands deep within the brain. The findings, which were replicated in both humans and rhesus monkeys, provide new insight into how the brain coordinates what we see and what we hear. It may also lead to new understanding of hearing disorders, such as difficulty following a conversation in a crowded room.

Navigating the genome to cure deafness   PhysOrg - November 2, 2017
A new study solves a critical piece of the puzzle of human deafness by identifying the first group of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) in the auditory system.

  'Bionic ear' lets deaf boy hear his family for the first time   CNN - August 17, 2015
In many ways, Caiden Moran is an average five-year-old boy. Running around his front yard, climbing trees and playing with his brother, the only difference you might notice is the small device on the side of his head.

Gene therapy restores hearing in deaf mice   Science Daily - July 8, 2015
Using gene therapy, researchers have restored hearing in mice with a genetic form of deafness. More than 70 different genes are known to cause deafness when mutated. The scientists focused on a gene called TMC1 because it is a common cause of genetic deafness, accounting for 4 to 8 percent of cases, and encodes a protein that plays a central role in hearing, helping convert sound into electrical signals that travel to the brain.

Auditory brainstem implant: Hearing experts break sound barrier for children born without hearing nerve   Science Daily - February 16, 2015
Medical researchers are breaking sound barriers for children born without a hearing nerve. Hearing loss manifests in various forms, most of which can be partially restored through hearing aids and cochlear implants. Those devices cannot help a small population of individuals who do not have a cochlear, or hearing, nerve -- these people are unable to perceive sound, no matter how loud, outside of feeling vibration. The ABI is considered revolutionary because it stimulates neurons directly at the human brainstem, bypassing the inner ear entirely.

Study shows human ear impacted by low frequency noises   PhysOrg - October 1, 2014
A new study by a team of researchers in Germany has resulted in findings that suggest the human ear is more impacted by low frequency sounds than has been previously thought. Humans can hear sounds in the range 20 and 20,000 Hz - sounds above and below that range enter the ear but cannot be heard. In recent years some people, inside and outside the science community, have begun to wonder if sounds that fall below that range might be having an impact on us that we don't know about. Some have suggested, for example, that low noises emitted by wind-farms cause a wide variety of problems from sleeplessness to headaches. Others have suggested jet engines, office equipment or air-conditioning units might be causing problems.

Stop and listen: Study shows how movement affects hearing   PhysOrg - August 28, 2014
When we want to listen carefully to someone, the first thing we do is stop talking. The second thing we do is stop moving altogether. This strategy helps us hear better by preventing unwanted sounds generated by our own movements. This interplay between movement and hearing also has a counterpart deep in the brain. Indeed, indirect evidence has long suggested that the brain's motor cortex, which controls movement, somehow influences the auditory cortex, which gives rise to our conscious perception of sound.

A new model explains why we perceive sounds when they are conducted through the skull   PhysOrg - June 27, 2014
The ear is an important organ that allows us to perceive the world around us. However, very few of us are aware that not only the ear cup but also our skull bone can receive and conduct sounds Tatjana Tchumatchenko from the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research in Frankfurt and Tobias Reichenbach from Imperial College London have now developed a new model explaining how the vibrations of the surrounding bone and the basilar membrane are coupled These new results can be important for the development of new headphones and hearing devices.

Cochlear Implant Plus Gene Therapy Could Restore Hearing to the Deaf   Discover - April 25, 2014
Cochlear implants have restored hearing to many deaf people, but they haven’t advanced much since they were unveiled in the 1970s. That may be set to change with an exciting new advance, not in the technology of the device itself, but rather in using gene therapy to increase the device’s effectiveness. Today researchers announced that they’ve been able to restore tonal hearing in guinea pigs with the new method of gene delivery.

Protein Found Responsible For Some Genetic Deafness   Live Science - December 11, 2012
The protein helps turn sound into electrical signals. The research is of more than just biochemical interest; it may also open a new avenue for possibly giving the sense of hearing to some of those who are born without it.

300-Year-Old Manual Reveals Early Attempts to Teach Deaf to Speak   Live Science - November 8, 2012
A 300-year-old, leather-bound instruction manual contains some of the earliest examples of attempts to teach the deaf to communicate. The manual belonged to Alexander Popham, a deaf teenager from a noble English family who was taught to speak in the 1660s. The leather-bound notebook was discovered in 2008 at a stately English manor called Littlecote House. The finding suggests that one of the boy's tutors, John Wallis, was a few hundred years ahead of his time in understanding that deaf people needed their own language to communicate, said linguist David Cram of the University of Oxford.

Device Gets Powered By Your Ear   Discovery - November 8, 2012
Our ears contain an elaborate system of chambers that convert mechanical energy into an electrochemical signal, much like a battery. Without those signals, we'd be unable to balance or hear. Now a new wireless microdevice can actually run on that scant energy. The technique could provide an inexhaustible power source for localized therapies and even hearing aids.

Scientists closer to grasping how the brain's 'hearing center' spurs responses to sound   PhysOrg - October 18, 2010
Just as we visually map a room by spatially identifying the objects in it, we map our aural world based on the frequencies of sounds. The neurons within the brain's "hearing center" -- the auditory cortex -- are organized into modules that each respond to sounds within a specific frequency band. But how responses actually emanate from this complex network of neurons is still a mystery.

  Structure of inner-ear protein is key to both hearing and inherited deafness   PhysOrg - April 17, 2010
Rising from the top surface of each of the specialized receptor cells in our inner ears is a bundle of sensory cilia that responds to the movement of sound. As sensitive as they are fragile, these cilia can move to wisps of sound no larger than a molecule but can shear at sounds that are larger than life.

Selective hearing: it is all in the mind   Telegraph.co.uk - March 15, 2010
Selective hearing - the ability to filter out unwanted noise and conversation - really does exist, according to research that scientists hope could help combat deafness.

Blind people use both visual and auditory cortices to hear   PhysOrg - February 16, 2010
Blind people have brains that are rewired to allow their visual cortex to improve hearing abilities. Yet they continue to access specialized areas to recognize human voices

Surprise! Your Skin Can Hear   Live Science - November 27, 2009
We not only hear with our ears, but also through our skin, according to a new study. The finding, based on experiments in which participants listened to certain syllables while puffs of air hit their skin, suggests our brains take in and integrate information from various senses to build a picture of our surroundings. Along with other recent work, the research flips the traditional view of how we perceive the world on its head.

People Hear With Their Skin as Well as Their Ears   New York Times - November 25, 2009
We hear with our ears, right? Yes, but scientists have known for years that we also hear with our eyes. In a landmark study published in 1976, researchers found that people integrated both auditory cues and visual ones, like mouth and face movements, when they heard speech.

Scientists identify genetic cause for type of deafness   PhysOrg - September 3, 2009
A team led by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute has discovered a genetic cause of progressive hearing loss. The findings will help scientists better understand the nature of age-related decline in hearing and may lead to new therapies to prevent or treat the condition.

New research demonstrates humans' right ear preference for listening   PhysOrg - June 23, 2009
We humans prefer to be addressed in our right ear and are more likely to perform a task when we receive the request in our right ear rather than our left. In a series of three studies, looking at ear preference in communication between humans, Dr. Luca Tommasi and Daniele Marzoli from the University "Gabriele d'Annunzio" in Chieti, Italy, show that a natural side bias, depending on hemispheric asymmetry in the brain, manifests itself in everyday human behavior.

How Human Ear Translates Vibrations Into Sounds   Science Daily - April 28, 2009
Scientists thought they had a good model to explain how the inner ear translates vibrations in the air into sounds heard by the brain. Now, based on new research from the Stanford University School of Medicine, it looks like parts of the model are wrong.

Scientists Identify Molecular Cause For One Form Of Deafness Science Daily - February 6, 2007
Scientists exploring the physics of hearing have found an underlying molecular cause for one form of deafness, and a conceptual connection between deafness and the organization of liquid crystals, which are used in flat-panel displays.