Sense of Hearing Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Mary Beth Burns

Mary Beth has taught 1st, 4th and 5th grade and has a specialist degree in Educational Leadership. She is currently an assistant principal.

Our sense of hearing is one of the most empowering of the five senses. Come learn why hearing is important, how humans and animals hear, as well as what happens when someone doesn't have a sense of hearing.

Why is Hearing Important?

Singing along to your favorite song on the radio. Hearing your best friend's voice on the phone. Listening to your teacher explain something new and fascinating to you. These are all experiences that require a sense of hearing. Not only does a sense of hearing allow us to communicate, enjoy music and learn new things, it also keeps us safe by warning us of danger, like when you hear a fire alarm or a car coming down the street.

How Do Humans Hear?

Basically, hearing is the process in which you pick up sound and attach it to meaning. Scientifically speaking, sound travels to us in invisible waves that are created by air vibrations. Vibrations are very small and quick movements that go back and forth, like ocean waves or a string moving up and down.

Sound waves

Once the vibrations enter your ear, they are sent to your brain to make meaning out of them so that you can understand the sound.

Parts of the Ear

Your ears are divided into three parts: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear.

The inside of the ear

Your outer ear is made up of the fleshy part that you see, the ear canal, and the eardrum. The vibration travels through the ear canal, which is like a passageway to the eardrum. When sound waves hit your eardrum, it vibrates - just like a real drum vibrates when it is hit with a drumstick. If a sound is way too loud, it might burst your eardrum, which would hurt or destroy your sense of hearing.

Part of your eardrum is also in the middle ear, which has tiny bones that vibrate. The movement of these bones causes fluid in the inner ear to move the teeny, tiny hairs that line the inner ear. These hairs are on what looks like a snail shell, called the cochlea. The hairs take the vibration and turn it into an electric signal. That signal sends messages to your brain to let it know that you just heard a sound and the brain needs to tell you what it means.

How Do Animals Hear?

While many animals hear with their ears just like humans, some animals hear in a different way. Snakes, for example, only have an inner ear. Therefore, they use the bones of their skull to hear sounds. Snakes will lay their skull and jaw on the ground to feel the vibrations in order to hear.

Some insects, like cockroaches and spiders, use tiny hairs on their legs to hear sounds.

What if Someone Can't Hear?

This baby is wearing a cochlear implant

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