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Discovery Magazine 2/1/1991

Hear! Hear!—the Ear

Rain falling on the roof. The bark of a dog. The singing of "America, the Beautiful." The voice of your mother as she tells you she loves you. Laughter. What do all these things have in common? They are all things you hear. But how do you hear?

How You Hear

Sounds cause "wave patterns" that travel through the air. Different sounds cause different wave patterns. A cat's meow is not the same as a guitar string being plucked. As sound waves enter our ears, they bounce off what we commonly call "eardrums." These eardrums inside the hearing canal vibrate (move)—sometimes fast, sometimes slow—depending on how loud the sound is.

Farther inside the ear, in what is called the "middle ear," are three tiny bones: the hammer, the anvil, and the stirrup (funny names for something inside an ear, wouldn't you say?).

These bones receive vibrations from the eardrum, and amplify (increase) them so they can then be sent on to the snail-shaped cochlea (COCK-lee-uh) which has 25,000 tiny hair cells. In the cochlea, the vibrations are changed into electrical signals, which go to the brain through the auditory (aw-di-TOR-ee) nerve. When the brain receives the signals, it sifts through its filing cabinet of memories and matches the incoming sound with one already recorded.

God Designed the Ear

All of this takes place in a fraction of a second! Pretty amazing, isn't it? In order to hear, a long chain of events has to occur, and yet it has to be "compacted" into a fraction of a second so our body can respond almost instantly to a train whistle, or a friend's cry for help, or a mother's "Don't do that!" The ear certainly shows a lot of beautiful design. But some scientists tell us that it "evolved." When we see a telephone, we know it had a designer. If the ear is more complicated than the telephone, could it have "just happened" by evolution? No! If it has design, it must have had a designer. That Designer is God.

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