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How do my ears work?

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How do my ears work? What part of the ear is inside the skull?

The delicate ear mechanism is inside the skull, close to the brain. The hard skull protects it from damage. When sound enters the ear it first meets the eardrum, which is at the end of the short tube connected to the outside ear. The sound waves vibrate the eardrum.

This vibration moves a series of three tiny bones, called the hammer, anvil and stirrup because of their shape, that increase the movement. These bones are enclosed in a chamber called the middle ear. They pass their movements to another part, the inner ear. This contains a coiled structure shaped like a snail's shell, called the cochlea, where the sound is detected.

The ear mechanism allows sound vibrations to be turned into electrical nerve impulses that are sent to the brain.

Any sound louder than 100 dB can be uncomfortable. If you are exposed to loud noise continuously, it can cause permanent damage to the sensitive ear mechanism.

How is sound carried to the brain?

Receptor cells in the cochlea turn sound vibrations into nerve impulses and pass them to the brain. The liquid-filled cochlea amplifies sounds as they pass down the spiral. Sensory cells that line the cochlea have small hairs. These are bent as the sound wave vibrates the liquid, causing them to produce nerve impulses. The impulses are passed to the brain along the auditory nerve.

Why do I have an ear flap?

The part of the ear on the side of your head is called the pinna. It collects and directs sounds into the inner part of the ear. The pinna contains rubbery cartilage to strengthen it. Many animals are able to move their ears in order to focus their attention on a particular sound and decide where it is coming from. Human beings no longer have this ability. Instead of moving our ears we turn our head towards a sound that interests us.

What sounds can I hear?

Sound is measured in decibels (dB).You can hear sounds ranging from a low rumble up to a high-pitched whistle. The lowest sounds can sometimes be felt in the chest, while very shrill sounds may be so high that you cannot hear them. A bat's squeak is at the limit of what humans can hear, and many people cannot hear this noise at all. Human hearing is not very sensitive compared to animals such as dogs who can hear very high-pitched sounds. Dogs are able to respond to a supersonic whistle that cannot be heard at all by humans.

Hearing without the ears

Many people suffer from hearing impairment. When children are born with this problem, it may be difficult for them to learn to speak clearly because they cannot hear the sounds they produce. Deaf children can be taught to speak with the help of a balloon that is held between the face of the child and the teacher's face. As the teacher speaks, the child can feel sound vibrations in the balloon. Profoundly deaf people can learn to communicate by sign language. They are able to 'speak' clearly to other people trained in this technique.

What is perfect pitch?

Most people have perfectly adequate hearing, but a few people have exceptional hearing abilities. People who can identify and remember a sound exactly are said to have perfect pitch. They are usually able to sing or play any musical note without being prompted.

Why do my ears pop?

When you go up in a lift or fly in a plane, your ears may pop as the air inside them expands. If this did not happen, your eardrum would burst as the air trapped inside your ear expands with the lower pressure. As the air expands, it leaks out through the Eustachian tube, which leads to your throat. It is this change in pressures that causes the popping sound.

Why do I have wax in my ears?

The ear canal is lined with cells that produce wax to protect the delicate ear mechanism. Wax traps dirt and bacteria, but it can sometimes build up and block the ear causing temporary deafness. When this happens, the wax may have to be syringed out with warm water.

How do my ears tell me where I am?

The ears contain the organs of balance. These are three curved, liquid-filled tubes that are attached to the cochlea. The tubes, called semicircular canals, contain tiny grains of chalky material. As you move and turn your head, the liquid swirls though the tubes, carrying the particles with it. The chalky grains trigger sensory cells that produce nerve impulses. These impulses are then passed to the brain, telling it the exact position of your head at any time.

Why is loud music bad for you?

Loud music can cause permanent loss of hearing, especially when it is fed directly into the ears through a personal stereo. Loud noise is one cause of deafness in later life. Hearing can usually be restored in deaf people by using a tiny amplifier, which is fitted either in or behind the ear. If the deafness is caused by damage to the nerves, hearing aids will not work and the hearing loss is usually permanent.

Tags: sound, body, ears, vibration

Category: Education  - ( Education Archive)

Date Added: 22 December '11

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