This animation illustrates how the human cochlea, a structure in the inner ear involved in hearing, receives sound in the form of vibrations.
Sounds pass as vibrations through tiny bones in our ear to the cochlea. The basilar membrane in the cochlea senses different sound frequencies at specific locations. Vibrations from low-frequency tones are sensed at the farthest end of the basilar membrane. The movements of the basilar membrane in response to these vibrations send signals to the brain that are translated into different sounds.
This animation, narrated by neuroscientist A. James Hudspeth, demonstrates how high-frequency sounds penetrate only a short distance along the basilar membrane. Depending on students’ backgrounds, it may be helpful to pause the animation at various points to discuss different features.
This animation is a clip from a 1999 Holiday Lecture Series, Senses and Sensitivity.
ear, frequency, hearing, inner ear, music, sound wave, spectral analysis, vibration
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
AP Biology (2019)
Vision and Change (2009)