The ear is a fascinating sensory organ: it enables us to speak to our fellow human beings, to perceive sounds from the environment, to hear important signals and to enjoy music. And it allows us to perceive the subtle nuances.
We explain how hearing works:
Good to see: the auricle
The anatomical structure of the ear is as complex as its diverse functions. The visible part of the ear is the pinna. It is made of cartilage tissue and is shaped like a fingerprint in every human being.The ear cup merges into the ear canal, which is about 2.5 cm long and has a diameter of only 7 mm. The front part of the ear canal also consists of cartilage tissue. Worry here small Hairs together with the ear wax that dust and foreign bodies are transported outside again. In the back area, the skin becomes very thin and sensitive and lies directly on the bone. The auricle and auditory canal together form the outer ear.
Only 1 cm³ in size: the middle ear
At the end the ear canal is sealed by the eardrum that crossing to the middle ear. The eardrum is a wafer-thin membrane, just 0.1 mm thick, with a tiny area of 85 mm². The middle ear itself is an air-filled cavity the size of a piece of sugar cubes. The smallest bones of the human body are attached to it: hammer, anvil and stirrups form the chain of the ossicles and are fused on one side with the eardrum, on the other side they close a small window to the inner ear. Via the tube, the middle ear has a connection channel to the nasopharynx area and thus gets enough fresh air.
High tech in the body: the inner ear
The stirrup is the last in the line of the ossicles. Its footplate fits exactly in a small one window in the bone, and behind it the inner ear begins. In contrast to the middle ear, all cavities there are filled with a liquid. The inner ear has two important components: the canals with the organ of balance and the cochlea. In fact, the bone capsule of the inner ear has the shape of a snail shell and is well protected under the skull bone. A thin, skin-like hose, which is also filled with liquid, winds inside the worm gear. On the bottom of the tube there are approx. 16,000 small hair cells that form the heart of the ear system. The incredible number of these sensory cells ensures that a person can hear pitches between 16 Hz and 16,000 Hz and can distinguish about 600 individual tones. For comparison: a piano has just 88 keys.
The headquarters: the hearing center
At the bottom of these tiny hairs are small contact points that are connected to individual nerve fibers and send impulses there. All these nerve fibers are then bundled and together form the auditory nerve, which directs the sound information to the hearing center in the brain via several switching stations.
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