Basic Anatomy - The Ear

Hares have huge ears, all the better to listen for predator and prey.

Basic Anatomy - The Ear

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The human ear is able to hear an amazing range of sound. On average, most people can hear sound in the frequencies between 20 hertz and 20,000 hertz, although that range decreases with age. Animals, for the most part, have a higher range of hearing that far surpasses the human range with cats out-hearing dogs.

Although we mostly associate the ear with hearing, the ear plays other roles. The ear also aids the body in balancing itself and where to position itself.

The ear structure is part of the auditory system and is made up of several parts. Among those parts are the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. These can be further described below.

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Parts of the Ear

Pinna: The pinna (which is also referred to as the auricle) is the visible part of the outer ear. The pinna collects sound and then directs that sound into the outer ear canal.

Outer Ear Canal: The outer ear canal is a tube through which sound travels to the eardrum.

Eardrum: The eardrum (which is also known as the tympanic membrane) is a thin membrane that vibrates when sound waves reach it.

Hammer: The hammer (which is also known as the malleus) is a tiny bone that transports the vibrations received by the eardrum to the anvil.

Anvil: The anvil (which is also known as the incus) is a tiny bone that transmits vibrations from the hammer to the stirrup.

Stirrup: The stirrup is the smallest bone in the human body. It is also sometimes referred to as the stapes. It is “U” shaped and it transmits vibrations over to the cochlea.

Cochlea: The cochlea is spiral shaped. It is an inner ear structure that is filled with fluid. The cochlea is lined with tiny hairs called cilia that move when vibrated. The moving cilia then create a nerve impulse.

Semicircular Canals: There are three semicircular canals that are fluid filled tubes that loop around. They are attached to the cochlea in the inner ear and they help us to maintain our sense of balance.

Eustachian Tube: The Eustachian tube connects the middle ear to the back of the nose. It helps to equalize pressure between the middle ear and the air outside. When you go up a mountain and you suddenly feel a “pop” in your ear, this is the Eustachian tube working to equalize the air pressure in your middle air.

Nerves: The nerves carry electro-chemical signals from the inner ear (or the cochlea) to the brain to interpret what the sound is that was being heard.

Diseases of the Ear

The two most common diseases of the ear are deafness and vertigo.

Deafness refers to a partial or total loss of one’s ability to hear. Deafness can be caused by traumatic injury, through certain illnesses or through a congenital defect.

Vertigo is when the balance of the body is thrown off due to improper release of air pressure and defects in the parts of the inner ear.

Okay, now it is your turn to see what you can remember about the ear. Check out each of the following ten questions and see if you can determine which answer is the correct answer.
1.
This carries electro-chemical signals from the inner ear (or the cochlea) to the brain to interpret what the sound is that was being heard.
Stirrup
Nerves
Anvil
Eardrum
The nerves carry electro-chemical signals from the inner ear (or the cochlea) to the brain to interpret what the sound is that was being heard. Answer (b) is correct
2.
This is the visible part of the outer ear.
Cochlea
Pinna
Eardrum
Stirrup
The pinna is the visible part of the outer ear. Answer (b) is correct
3.
Humans can hear up to ______ hertz.
20,000
200,000
2,000
200
Humans can hear up to 20,000 hertz. Answer (a) is correct
4.
Besides hearing, the ear aids us in ________.
determining location
understanding frequencies
fighting diseases
balancing the body
Besides hearing, the ear aids us in balancing the body. Answer (d) is correct
5.
These are fluid filled tubes that loop around and they help us to maintain our sense of balance.
Semicircular canals
Ear canals
Cochlea
Eustachian tubes
Semicircular canals are three fluid filled tubes that loop around and they help us to maintain our sense of balance. Answer (a) is correct
6.
The ear structure is part of the ________.
circulatory system
nervous system
auditory system
sensory system
The ear structure is part of the auditory system. Answer (c) is correct
7.
This is when the balance of the body is thrown off due to improper release of air pressure and defects in the parts of the inner ear.
Deafness
Equilibrium
Auditory
Vertigo
Vertigo is when the balance of the body is thrown off due to improper release of air pressure and defects in the parts of the inner ear. Answer (d) is correct
8.
This is a thin membrane that vibrates when sound waves reach it.
Pinna
Anvil
Eardrum
Stirrup
The eardrum is a thin membrane that vibrates when sound waves reach it. Answer (c) is correct
9.
This is the smallest bone in the human body.
Cochlea
Stirrup
Anvil
Hammer
The stirrup is the smallest bone in the human body. Answer (b) is correct
10.
This is spiral shaped. It is an inner ear structure that is filled with fluid.
Ear canal
Eustachian tube
Cochlea
Anvil
The cochlea is spiral shaped. It is an inner ear structure that is filled with fluid. Answer (c) is correct
Author:  Christine G. Broome

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