Human Anatomy – Ears
- Human Anatomy – Tonsils
- Human Anatomy – Teeth
- Human Anatomy – Stomach
- Human Anatomy – Tongue
- Human Anatomy – Esophagus
- Human Anatomy – Liver
- Human Anatomy – Gallbladder
- Human Anatomy – Spleen
- Human Anatomy – Pancreas
- Human Anatomy – Appendix
- Human Anatomy – Intestines
- Human Anatomy – Colon
- Human Anatomy – Abdomen
- Human Anatomy – Penis
- Human Anatomy – Bladder
- Human Anatomy – Kidneys
- Human Anatomy – Prostate
- Human Anatomy – Vagina
- Human Anatomy – Heart
- Human Anatomy – Skin
- Human Anatomy – Aorta
- Human Anatomy – Thyroid
- Human Anatomy – Lungs
- Human Anatomy – Brain
- Human Anatomy – Eyes
- Human Anatomy – Ears
- Human Anatomy – Sinuses
- Human Anatomy – Trachea
- Human Anatomy – Blood
- Human Anatomy – Rotator Cuff
- Human Anatomy – Shoulder
- Human Anatomy – Feet
- Human Anatomy – Hair
- Human Anatomy – Achilles Tendon
Ears give you the sense of hearing. An ear is comprised of three sections, namely the outer ear, middle ear, and inner ear.
People can see the outer ear, also known as the pinna or auricle. This is no other than the external part of the ear, protruding for all to see. Made of ridged cartilage and skin, the outer ear is where sound enters the ear.
Sound waves then lead to the middle ear, but not before they pass through the wax-lined ear canal. Earwax, also known as cerumen, traps dirt infiltrating the canal and protects it from insects, bacteria and fungi.
In the middle ear, sound waves are transformed by the eardrum into vibrations. An eardrum, which is virtually a portion of skin stretched thin, vibrates whenever sound waves reach it. When it vibrates, the eardrum simultaneously stirs the ossicles: the stapes, malleus and incus. Known as the smallest bones of the human body, the ossicles direct the vibrations towards the inner ear.
Here a tiny liquid-filled tube called the cochlea awaits the vibrations from the ossicles. The cochlea is covered with microscopic hairs, which move in time with the vibrations. Subsequently, these hairs turn the vibrations into nerve signals, which promptly travel to the brain. The brain then converts them into sound you can hear.
Ear diseases and conditions
Hearing loss may be congenital in nature. Some people are just born deaf or with ear parts that don’t function normally.
Other times, people lose hearing because of injuries and serious conditions. Meningitis and Meniere’s disease are known to cause loss of hearing, for example. Moreover, benign tumors called acoustic neuromas may grow in the ear and impair hearing.
Healthy lifestyle experts especially warn against frequent exposure to loud sounds. High decibels of noise, especially those wafting from machinery and earphones, can cause hearing impairment, let alone earaches.
Too much noise, apart from steep changes in air pressure, is known to rupture eardrums at the very least. It can also cause tinnitus or ringing in the ears.
Ears are easily inflamed by bacterial and fungal infections. They can cause otitis media or inflammation of the middle ear, and otitis externa or inflammation of the outer ear (also known as Swimmer’s ear). Infection can also cause mastoiditis or inflammation of the mastoid bone in the ear.
Though it serves an important function, earwax can harm the ear by obstructing the ear canal and sticking to the eardrum. Cerumen impaction impairs hearing.
An ear may be sufficiently impaired as to cause bouts of vertigo. Called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo, this condition is not an emergency.
Another benign ear condition is called cholesteatoma, in which fibrous tissue accumulates in the middle ear and emits an unpleasant odor.
Treating ear conditions
Earwax drops or cerumenolytics can scatter impacted earwax. Mineral oil or hydrogen peroxide with water may be used as makeshift cerumenolytics.
Alternatively, lavage can be used to treat impacted cerumen. In a lavage, the ear canal is irrigated with saline water and diluted hydrogen peroxide.
Ear inflammation, if bacterial in origin, can be treated with antibiotic eardrops. Antibiotics may otherwise be taken orally.
People who suffer from repeated ear infections can have drainage tubes surgically placed in the ears.
Vertigo is treated with antihistamines or histamine blockers. Certain positional exercises may also alleviate symptoms of vertigo.
Surgery is used to remove benign ear tumors.
Tests for ear conditions
ENT doctors can diagnose ear problems via a simple ear exam, using an otoscope. An audiologist, instead of an ENT specialist, may also check for hearing problems.
Computed tomography (CT scan) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are frequently used to diagnose conditions of the ear.