Place Theory of Hearing: Definition & Explanation

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Sensory Dysfunction Disorder in Children: Symptoms, Treatment & Definition

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 What Is Place Theory…
  • 0:48 Structure of the Ear
  • 2:40 Frequency Theory and…
  • 3:37 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

The place theory of hearing states that different parts of the cochlea are activated by different frequencies. Learn more about the place theory of hearing and the structure of the ear.

What Is the Place Theory of Hearing?

The place theory of hearing is used to explain how we distinguish high-pitched sounds that possess a frequency that exceeds 5,000 hertz. According to the place theory of hearing, we can hear different pitches due to specific sound frequencies causing vibrations in specific parts on the basilar membrane of the cochlea. In other words, different parts of the cochlea are activated by different frequencies.

Each location on the basilar membrane possesses a particular characteristic frequency. For example, a sound that measures 6,000 hertz would stimulate the spot along the basilar membrane that possesses a characteristic frequency of 6,000 hertz. The brain detects the pitch based on the position of the hair cells that transmitted the neural signal.

Structure of the Ear

In order for us to truly understand the place theory of hearing, we must first have basic knowledge about the structure of the ear. This picture depicts the different parts of the human ear.

human ear

We absorb sound into the outer ear, which includes the external auditory canal and the auricle, or pinna. The sound transforms into an acoustical signal after it is absorbed. The tympanic membrane, commonly known as the eardrum, is the part of the ear that separates the outer ear from the middle ear.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account