We often take our hearing for granted. Whether it is the calming sound of the waves as they collapse upon the shore, or the delightful strains of a gentle symphony, hearing just seems to happen and with little effort on our part!

But behind all of this lies a mechanism that is tremendously complex.

The human ear can be divided into three distinct parts. The first is the external ear which consists of a strange looking piece of skin sticking out on both sides of our head (the pinna), the ear canal and the eardrum (the outer layer of the tympanic membrane).

What is the purpose of these pinnae, or ear flaps? Why isn’t a simple hole sufficient enough to allow sound waves to enter the ear canal? Why do we need that strangely shaped lump of flesh called an ear, rising like a wall to the rear, while completely open in the front? Well, the twists and folds in the pinnae are there to specifically improve sounds with a pitch that is highly suitable for a human voice. They boost these sounds up to 100 times louder and leave other pitches untouched. In other words, the folds are in a specific shape to amplify important human sounds and reduce extraneous background noise.

Why do we have two ears? Why isn’t one enough and why isn’t it placed in the centre of the head, like the mouth? We have two ears because they assist us in determining sound direction. Imagine if you were alone on a dark night and suddenly, there is a rustling noise on the right. You can immediately turn towards the source of the noise because the right ear heard the noise slightly louder and a fraction of a second earlier than your left ear.

This initial information was passed to the brain—the suspicious rustling noise was detected by the “receiver” on the right, so the brain immediately orders the visual detection systems to look in that direction and all the other body systems to go on high alert.

The marvel of the ear is perfectly suited to the environment we live in. How could blind chance “assume” that sound even exists and that these vibrations can somehow be detected and translated into meaningful information. Without this special sense of hearing our earliest ancestors could never have survived. Evolution is unable to explain how a non-hearing cell can detect vibrating molecules within a medium, typically air (but sometimes water), receive mechanical sound waves within a specific wavelength range and start developing an organ over millions of years to capture these vibrations and then in harmony with the brain, convert them to electrical signals, direct them to the right area of the brain and correctly interpret what is happening outside the body.

Even wax in the ear canal has a purpose! Wax provides lubrication while at the same time it protects the eardrum from dust, dirt, and invading microbes and insects. The shape of the ear canal is such that wax near the eardrum naturally migrates outwards toward the entrance of the ear canal.This provides a natural mechanism of wax removal and all the material it collects. Since this feature has no bearing on the evolutionary survival of the fittest, why is it even there? The only reasonable explanation is that it is there by design to help keep our ears clean!

As sound waves are captured by the external ear they naturally move down the ear canal and strike the eardrum. The eardrum is a very thin cone-shaped membrane which responds to sound waves by vibrating to a degree that is determined by their amplitude, wave length, and frequency. It represents the end of the outer ear and the beginning of the middle ear.

How does the eardrum work? The eardrum is a thin, cone-shaped piece of skin, about 10 mm wide which is very sensitive to sound waves. It acts just like the diaphragm in a microphone. The compressions of sound waves push the drum back and forth. Higher-pitch sound waves move the drum more rapidly, and louder sounds move the drum a greater distance.

The eardrum can also serve to protect the inner ear from prolonged exposure to loud, low-pitch noises. When the brain receives a signal that indicates this sort of noise, a reflex occurs at the eardrum. The tensor tympani muscle and the stapedius muscle suddenly contract. This pulls the eardrum and the connected bones in two different directions, so the drum becomes more rigid. When this happens, the ear does not pick up as much noise at the low end of the audible spectrum, so the loud noise is dampened.

In addition to protecting the ear, this reflex helps you concentrate your hearing. It masks loud, low-pitch background noise so you can focus on higher-pitch sounds. Among other things, this helps you carry on a conversation when you’re in a very noisy environment, like a crowded restaurant. The reflex also kicks in whenever you start talking—otherwise, the sound of your own voice would drown out a lot of the other sounds around you.

In contrast to any form of evolution, the psalmist declared that God “planted the ear” (Psa 94:9). God has, as it were, dug a hole in our head and placed a concealed mechanism beneath the surface that will absorb His words and cause us to grow spiritually. More significantly, though, God listens to our conversations! The Father that made mankind with ears to hear must Himself hear all that we say. He that hath ears to ear, let him hear.