Many of us tend to think of the ear as being merely the outside flap, the visible part that is a combination of skin and cartilage. The ear is one of the body’s most complex organs – and the earflap is its least essential part. In fact, if you lost in through accident, your hearing would be little affected. Compared with the swiveling ear flaps of such animals as hares and cats, our ear flaps do an indifferent job and even poorer when hidden by hair.
The vital parts of the ear, those responsible for hearing and balance, lie within the skull. They are marvels of miniaturisation. The middle ear has an amplifying system of three linked bones, the four or five drops of water would fill it. The inner ear, not much bigger than pea, has as many circuits as the telephone systems of some cities.
Your hear something when sound waves strikes the eardrum, causing it to vibrate. Each minute inward movement of the drum sets up a reaction in the ossicles. These bones are named according to their shapes. The malleus, or hammer, take sup the eardrum’s rhythm, and transfers the message to the icus (anvil). The incus passes on the vibrations to the stapes (stirrup).
The inner ear is among the bet protected parts of the body, and it needs to be. It helps us to maintain our balance, and houses the cochlea, which converts sound waves into nerve impulses, the language of the brain.
The cochlea, which looks like the shell of a small snail, is truly remarkable device. It has some 20,000 hairlike cells which react to sound. Some are narrow and stiff, and are activated by higher-pitched tones; others, wider and more flexible, pick up sounds of deeper pitch. So these sensory cells vibrate, they create impulses for the acoustic nerves to carry messages to the brain.