The human auditory system is responsible for helping human beings hear. Hearing is also one of the five senses, along with sight, smell, taste, and touch.
The Sensitive and Complex Human Ear
As with the human eye, the human ear is a complex organ. Though sensitive, the inner ear is well protected. Externally, this is not the case, and ear lobes can be easily damaged.
Three Main Sections
There are three main sections of the human ear, which are the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The process of hearing begins from when sound waves reach the outer ear. The ear canal then transports the sounds through to the middle ear, where there is a membrane that covers the middle ear. This is more commonly known as the eardrum.
Vibrations of the eardrum are caused by the sound waves that reach it, and the eardrum passes on the sounds it receives to three small bones in the ear. The sound reaches the following three bones, the malleus (also called the hammer), incus (anvil), and stapes (stirrups). These three parts are given the more common names of hammer, anvil, and stirrups because of their resemblance to those three objects in shape.
Hammer, Anvil, Stirrups
When the vibrations have reached the stirrups they pass on to the inner ear, but the stirrups work is not done. The stirrups touches a sack filled with liquid, and vibrations are then sent to the shell-like cochlea. The cochlea is able to translate the sound it receives into nerve impulses. The cochlea itself consists of hundreds of nerve cells joined to nerve fibers that sends the brain information. It is the brain that then assesses the information and determines how different sounds are understood.
In terms of scale, the important pathways of the human ear are quite small. The outer ear canal is around half an inch long. The middle ear is connected to the back of the throat by a tube that is approximately an inch and a half long. This is called the eustachian tube.
How the Human Ear Helps Balance
The ear is not only important for hearing, but it is very important in aiding humans sense of balance. The auditory nerve is responsible for sending sound and balance sensations to the brain. Damage to the human ear can result in disorientation regarding balance, as judging distances, both near and far, often becomes more difficult.