August 10, 2011


Hearing (or audition; adjectival form: "auditory" or "aural") is the ability to perceive sound by detecting vibrations through an organ such as the ear.[1] It is one of the traditional five senses. The inability to hear is called deafness.

In humans and other vertebrates, hearing is performed primarily by the auditory system: 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.[2]

The eardrum of an ear simplifies incoming air pressure waves to a single channel of amplitude. In the inner ear, the distribution of vibrations along the length of the basilar membrane is detected by hair cells. The location and intensity of vibrations in the basilar membrane is transmitted to the brain through the auditory nerve.

Hearing can be measured by behavioral tests using an audiometer. Electrophysiological tests of hearing can provide accurate measurements of hearing thresholds even in unconscious subjects. Such tests include auditory brainstem evoked potentials (ABR), otoacoustic emissions (OAE) and electrocochleography (EchoG). Technical advances in these tests have allowed hearing screening for infants to become widespread.

The hearing structures of many species have defense mechanisms against injury. For example, the muscles of the middle ear (e.g. the tensor tympani muscle) in many mammals contract reflexively in reaction to loud sounds which may injure the hearing ability of the organism.

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