Without our ears we wouldn’t be able to hear or balance. The ear consists of the outer, middle and inner ear, which collect sound waves and send sound signals to the brain to be interpreted.
THE OUTER EAR
Also called the pinna or auricle, this is the part everyone can see. The primary function of the outer ear is to collect sound waves. It houses the ear canal, where you’ll find the yellow gooey stuff called earwax. Earwax protects the skin inside the ear from infections, and repels insects and dust, so it’s gross, but very useful!
THE MIDDLE EAR
Sound waves travel through the ear canal to the middle ear where they are converted to vibrations. This happens with the help of the eardrum, a thin, tightly stretched piece of skin that separates the middle ear from the outer ear. When sound waves reach the eardrum, they cause it to vibrate, much like when you hit a real drum with a stick. These vibrations cause the tiny bones in your ear, called ossicles, to move, carrying the sound along and into the inner ear.
THE INNER EAR
When sound travels to the inner ear it enters the cochlea, a curled tube that looks like a snail’s shell. The cochlea is filled with liquid, which moves like a wave when the ossicles vibrate. The cochlea is covered with microscopic hairs. Sound vibrations make these hairs move, creating nerve signals that are sent to the brain and interpreted as sound!
Did You Know?
The ossicles in your middle ear are the smallest bones in your body and are also known as the hammer, anvil and stirrup.
PROTECT YOUR EARS!
- Wear earplugs when in a noisy environment.
- Keep the volume on your mp3 player low when wearing earphones.
- Never stick anything in your ears – not even earbuds!
Our ears do more than help us hear, they also stop us falling over! There are three semi-circular canals in the inner ear, filled with liquid and thousands of tiny hairs that contain nerve endings (just like in the cochlea). When you move, the liquid sloshes around, pulling on the little hairs and within a split second they send a message to your brain, which then tells the relevant body parts or muscles what to do in order for you to keep your balance.
EAR YOU ARE, I’VE BEEN LOOKING FOR YOU!