How exactly are your ears connected to your sense of balance? In the final episode of season 2, Patrick breaks down what the connection is and the outsized role hidden anatomy plays in this important sense.
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Anatomists typically divide the ear into three main sections: the outer, middle, and inner ear. The outer ear includes everything you see on the surface plus the ear canal — mostly elastic cartilage wrapped in skin that’s rich with sebaceous oil glands and ear wax glands.
At this point, the purpose of the ear is just to collect sound waves, kind of like how a satellite dish is concave to collect radio waves. Those sound waves rattle the eardrum, or tympanic membrane, an extremely thin membrane that amplifies and transmits sound waves to the three smallest bones in our bodies — the hammer, anvil, and stirrup or malleus, incus, and stapes if you want to use Latin.
Then those vibrations wiggle the cochlea in the inner ear, which transforms vibrations into nervous impulses that travel to the brain and get interpreted as your favorite Tiktok song.
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“The human ear, like that of other mammals, contains sense organs that serve two quite different functions: that of hearing and that of postural equilibrium and coordination of head and eye movements. Anatomically, the ear has three distinguishable parts: the outer, middle, and inner ear.”
How does our sense of balance work?
“The ear is a sensory organ that picks up sound waves, allowing us to hear. It is also essential to our sense of balance: the organ of balance (the vestibular system) is found inside the inner ear. It is made up of three semicircular canals and two otolith organs, known as the utricle and the saccule.”
How Do We Hear?
“Hearing depends on a series of complex steps that change sound waves in the air into electrical signals. Our auditory nerve then carries these signals to the brain.”
This Seeker health series will dive deep into the cellular structures, human systems, and overall anatomy that work together to keep our bodies going. Using the visual structure and quick pacing of Seeker’s Sick series, these human bio-focused episodes will give a new audience an inside look on what’s happening inside all of us.
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