The ears are organs that provide two main functions — hearing and balance. The anatomy of our ears is both complex and brilliant and as your hearing is one of the most important aspects of your health you should strive to understand how they work. Read on to learn about the various parts of the ears and how they function.
The outer ear is the first place sound enters the ear, starting with the pinna which directs the sound waves into the ear canal. The ear canal is a narrow passageway which leads to the eardrum. Sound travels in waves through the ear canal to the eardrum.
The ear canal is lined with hairs and glands that secrete wax. This part of the ear provides protection and channels sound. The auricle or pinna is the most visible part of the outer ear and what most people are referring to when they use the word “ear.”
The middle ear is an air-filled cavity that turns sound waves into vibrations and delivers them to the inner ear. The middle ear is separated from the outer ear by the tympanic membrane otherwise known as the eardrum. The eardrum is a thin piece of tissue stretched tight across the ear canal, so when sounds hit the eardrum, it moves and transfers the sounds deeper into your ear via a series of tiny bones called the malleus, incus, and stapes.
The middle ear is connected to the back of the nose and throat by the Eustachian tube. This means that when you yawn or swallow, the Eustachian tube can open to equalise pressure on both sides of the eardrum and prevent the membrane from being damaged.
When you get some cold and flu symptoms, the Eustachian tube can become blocked with mucus, causing a build-up of pressure and temporary hearing impairment or loss as a result.
The eustachian tube is a canal that connects the middle ear to the nasopharynx, which consists of the upper throat and the back of the nasal cavity. It controls the pressure within the middle ear, making it equal with the air pressure outside the body.
When you get a cold or flu, the Eustachian tube can become blocked with mucus, causing a build-up of pressure and temporary hearing loss or impairment as a result.