What is physiology of ear? Can you imagine your life without hearing? Bless those souls who are leading their lives wonderfully without the sense of hearing. Your ears are one of the most vital parts of your body. They give you the gift of one of the five senses. Your ears have a perfectly shape to transmit and transduce the sounds to your brain. Let us have a thorough understanding of the physiology of ear to appreciate its miraculous working.
The Outer Ear
An ear has three main parts: the outer ear, middle ear, and the inner. Let us understand the parts of an outer ear first. The outer inner is mainly the visible part of the ear. The outer ear is the entryway of the sound waves into the ear. Following are the parts of an outer ear.
Most of the outer ear comprises of the pinna or an auricle, which is the visible fleshy part. Helix is the curving and outer rim of the pinna. As the curving of the pinna goes inward, the sound waves reach the antihelix, which opens in the ear canal. Pinna consists of single elastic cartilage that helps to hold and support the ear.
It is the pathway between the outer ear and the middle ear through which the sound waves travel.
The tragus is a small protruding opening that partially covers the ear canal. Interestingly tragus is also the name of the hair at the entrance of the ear. The parallel side of the tragus is the antitragus.
The Middle Ear
The middle ear lies between the outer and inner ear. It has an air-filled cavity, the tympanic cavity and includes the ossicles.
The ossicles are the three bones Anvil, Hammer, and Stirrup present in the middle ear. The bones attach to the ear with their ligaments. These bones are the smallest bones of the human body. Ossicles help to direct and transmit the sound waves to the cochlea (the inner ear).
Eustachian Tube/Auditory Tube
This part of the middle ear connects to the throat and nasopharynx through the pharyngeal opening.
Round and Oval Windows
These two small windows provide openings to the inner ear.
The inner ear is the area where the action starts. It sits in the bony labyrinth cavity of the ear. The inner ear has inter-connected tubes and chambers. The cochlea is the most important part of the inner ear. The other chambers with the fluid inside are the vestibular tubules or the semi-circular canals. These structures together form the membranous labyrinth of the inner ear.
This snail-shaped chamber receives sound waves from the middle ear. Any damage to the cochlea can partially or completely deafen you. Sound waves reach the brain through vestibulocochlear nerves present in the cochlea. The interpretation of the sounds waves takes place in the brain. The hairs in the cochlea also help in the transmission of the sound waves.
This was a simple and easy understanding of the physiology of the ear, highlighting the important components of the ears. As remarkable and well functioning the human ear is, it is also very delicate. Too much noise exposure can damage the cochlea and other important components of the ear.
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