Ears help in hearing. They are paired organs located on each side of the human head. There are several conditions which can affect the human ears. This includes infections, meniere’s disease and eustachian tube dysfunction. It is important to take proper care of our ears.
As we have discussed above, ears are organs which can detect and analyze sound. They basically help us with hearing and balance.
Hearing: The tympanic membrane/eardrum vibrates as sound waves enter our ear canal. The vibration is passed on to the 3 tiny bones/ossicles in the middle ear. The sound waves are amplified and transmitted to the inner ear by the ossicles. The vibrations are transformed into electrical signals by tiny hair cells called stereocilia as the sound waves reach the inner ear. The signals are sent along the nerve fibers to the brain.
Balance: The inner ear comprises semicircular canals which are filled with fluid and hair-like sensors. As we move our head, the fluid inside the loop-shaped canals sloshes around moving the hairs.The information is transmitted along the vestibular nerve to the brain by the hairs. The brain sends signals to our muscles helping us stay balanced.
The ears are located directly over the temporal lobe. The part of the brain is responsible for hearing, speech and memory.
The outer ear, middle ear, and the inner ear are the three main parts of the ear. The outer ear and middle ear are separated by the tympanic membrane or ear drum.
Outer ear/External ear
The outer ear is the part of the ear which is visible. Also known as auricle or pinna, it consists of ridged cartilage and skin. It also contains glands which secrete ear wax. The funnel-shaped canal leads to eardrum/tympanic membrane.
The middle ear begins on the other side of the tympanic membrane/eardrum. The malleus, incus and stapes are the three tiny bones present in this area. These bones transfer sound vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear. The eustachian tubes present in the middle ear helps in equalizing the air pressure in the ears.
The two main parts of the inner ear are the cochlea and the semicircular canals. The cochlea is the hearing organ. It contains two fluid-filled chambers lined with tiny hairs. The cochlea is a snail-shaped structure. As sound enters, the tiny hairs vibrate with the help of the fluid inside the cochlea, sending electrical impulses to the brain.
The semicircular canals or the labyrinthine is responsible for balance.
Conditions and Disorders
There are several diseases and conditions which can affect our ears.
Ear infection/Otitis media
Ear infections mostly occur in the middle ear. It occurs when bacteria and viruses are trapped in the middle ear. It is more likely to affect children. Ear infections are usually treated using antibiotics.
Eustachian tube dysfunction
The eustachian tubes connect the middle ears to the throat. In eustachian tube dysfunction, these tubes get clogged. The symptoms include muffled hearing, sensation of fullness and ear pain.
Swimmer’s ear/Otitis externa
It is an ear canal infection which is caused by bacteria or fungi. The condition occurs as water enters inside the ear. It can also occur if hair spray or other irritants enter inside the ear canal. Some people injure their ear canal using cotton swabs.
When there is a hole in the tympanic membrane, it’s called the ruptured eardrum. Infection, trauma or loud sounds may result in a ruptured eardrum. Ruptured eardrums usually heal on their own in a few weeks time. But in certain cases it requires surgical repair.
Cuts and fractures can cause ear injury. A surgery might be required in case the damage is severe. This includes surgery for preserving hearing or cosmetic surgery for improving the appearance of the ear.
Ear tumors can be either benign/noncancerous or malignant/cancerous. Keloids, sebaceous cysts and osteomas are examples for noncancerous ear tumors. They usually require surgical removal.
Melanoma, basal cell carcinoma and squamous cell carcinoma are cancers which can affect the ear. The treatment depends on the type and stage of cancer, and whether or not it has spread to various parts of the body.
Common ear tests include pure-tone testing, auditory brainstem response (ABR), and otoacoustic emissions (OAEs).
- Always keep your ears dry. For example, while swimming, wear ear plugs.
- Never use cotton swabs to clean the ear canal.
- Wear protective equipments while playing contact sports
- Always turn down the volume!
- Try wearing ear plugs, when there are loud noises around you.
- Routine ear examinations are mandatory.
Protect your ears! They are valuable!
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Check your knowledge
Answer) The human ears help to detect and analyze sound. In short, they basically help us with hearing and balance.
Answer) Outer ear, middle ear and inner ear.
Answer) Otitis media, eustachian tube dysfunction, swimmer’s ear and ruptured eardrum.