The ears are sensitive organs – ones which would be inconvenient to live without. The ears are in charge of collecting the sounds around us, processing them, and sending sound signals to the brain for interpretation. Our ears also help us to keep our balance. The ear is made up of three distinct sections: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.
The outer ear is called the pinna or auricle, and is the part of the ear that extrudes from the head. The main job of the outer ear is to collect sounds, and structurally includes the ear canal, where wax is produced.
Although we tend to think of earwax as ‘gunk’ it is in fact a natural substance produced by the body to protect the ear canal. Earwax contains important chemicals that support the skin inside the ear canal and collects dirt to help keep the ear canal clean. After sound waves enter the outer ear, they travel through the ear canal and make their way to the middle ear where sound waves turn into vibrations that are delivered to the inner ear.
To do this, the middle ear needs the eardrum – a thin piece of skin stretched tight like a drum. When sound waves reach the eardrum, they cause the eardrum to vibrate when this happens, it moves the tiny ossicles from the hammer to the anvil and then to the stirrup. These bones help sound move along on its journey into the inner ear.
Sound comes into the inner ear as vibrations and enters the cochlea. When sound reaches the cochlea, the vibrations (sound) cause the hairs on the cells to move, creating nerve signals that the brain understands as sound.
The natural way
Protect your hearing by wearing earplugs at loud music concerts and around noisy machinery. Keep the volume down on your stereo, especially if you’re in the car or wearing headphones and always use a shower cap in the shower or earplugs when you swim, if you know that you are prone to getting water in your ears.