The Ear and Hearing

The human ear is a fascinating body part that allows people to hear the crashing of waves in the ocean as well as the chirping of birds in the distance. It also allows people to maintain a good sense of balance.

The ear is such a dynamic instrument for hearing as it gives people the capability to recognize sounds and even identify their location as well as their sources. A good example is a person sitting down in a noisy room.

Schematic diagram of the human ear

As a mosquito approaches the person, he or she will be able to identify the unique noise of the mosquito’s buzzing sound and locate it as it approaches. This capability is possible thanks to the human auditory system that is made up of two main parts: the ear and the brain.

The ear has an important task of to convert soundwaves into signals that the brain is able to recognize. On the other hand, the brain’s task is to receive and process the information contained in soundwaves. Sound is produced by a source such as a bird that chirps or a plane that flies.

The source of a sound creates vibrations that travels as waves of pressure through particles in air, liquid, and solids.

The ear has an inner instrument called the Cochlea that is full of saltwater-like fluids. When soundwaves travel inside the ear, the eardrum and tiny bones inside the ear convert the movement of the eardrum into pressure waves in the fluid of the Cochlea.

The pressure waves cause the eardrums to vibrate while jerking a bone called the Stapes, which pushes the fluid of the Cochlea.

The vibrations within the fluid stimulate hair follicles inside the ear and this movement triggers a signal that travels into the auditory nerve, which sends a signal to the brain. During this motion, the brain works to interpret it as a specific sound. This is how the human ear works.

Interesting Facts About the Ear and Hearing

  • The ear consists of three main parts. These are the Outer Ear, Middle Ear, and the Inner Ear.
  • The Inner ear is such an important organ as it works to help people maintain proper balance.
  • Sound that is above 130 decibels can cause the ear to experience pain.
  • When a person eats too much, he or she tends to lose sharpness in their hearing.
  • The size of the inner ear is as a big as a pencil’s eraser.
  • The ear contains the smallest bone known in the human body. This bone is located in the middle ear and is known as the Stapes.
  • The 3 smallest and most fragile bones are located in the middle ear.
  • The middle ear bones are named from their shape: Malues (Hammer), Incus (Anvil), and Stapes (Stirrup).
  • Tiny hair cells found in the inner ear convert soundwaves into signals that they send to the brain to process.
  • People are born with approximately 3,500 sound detecting ear cells. They do not regenerate.

How long does it take a human to process sound?

Humans take up to 0.05 seconds to process a sound.

Why do people lose hearing as they age?

People lose specific cells that work to detect sound as they get older. This results in their eardrums losing the ability to detect higher pitched sound.

At what age do people start to lose hearing?

People begin to lose the ability to hear well during the ages of 65 and 74.

Why are people unable to hear when sleeping?

The ears never stop hearing even when people sleep. It is their brains that ignores incoming sounds.