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How Does the Ear Works

How Does the Ear Works

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Published by NL
A brief idea about the functioning of the ear.
A brief idea about the functioning of the ear.

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: NL on Aug 10, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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03/16/2014

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The Ear

For Medical and Science students (level 2) Devised by Tim Jacob SOUND Sound is the compression and rarefaction of air, or, in other words, alternating air pressure. The distance between the pressure peaks is called the wavelength. The frequency of the sound is {wavelength -1 x speed of sound} . The frequency determines the pitch of the sound. Humans can detect sound in the frequency range 20 to 20,000Hz (Hz = cycles, or waves, per second). TRANSDUCTION of SOUND into ELECTRICAL EVENTS The numbers in the diagram below indicate the sequence of events in the detection and transduction of sound waves. THE EAR

1. Sound waves enter the external ear and are directed towards the tympanic membrane. 2. Air molecules under pressure cause the tympanic to vibrate. Low frequency sound waves produce slow vibrations and high frequency sounds produce rapid vibrations. These move the malleus on the other side of the membrane. 3. The handle of the malleus strikes the incus causing it to vibrate. 4. The vibrating incus moves the stapes in and out and vibrates the oval window. The total force of the sound wave is transferred to the oval window, but, because the oval window is much smaller the force per unit area is increased 15-20 times. Additional mechanical advantage is gained from the leverage in the middle ear bones. This is necessary because the fluid in the inner ear is more difficult to move than air and thus sound must be amplified. 5. The sound waves that reach the inner ear through the oval window set up pressure changes that vibrate the perilymph in the scala vestibuli. 6. Vibrations in the perilymph are

and low frequencies vibrate the apical end where the membrane is wide and thin}. 9. FREQUENCY CODING The basilar membrane is narrow and stiff at the window end and wide and flexible at the apical end. i. causing a depolarisation. Information about the vibration at different locations along the basilar membrane is relayed to the auditory cortex by the nerves synapsing with the hair cells at those locations. into the middle ear. The action potentials are transmitted along the cochlear branch of the vestibulocochlear nerve. If large enough. bend as the basilar membrane vibrates. Complex signals like clicks. activating auditory pathways in the central nervous system. The end near the stapes (window end) vibrates at high frequencies whereas the apical end vibrates at low frequencies. eventually terminating in the auditory area of the temporal lobe of the cerebral cortex. whistles. Not all cells in the auditory cortex respond to simple tones. This is a little fanciful and it is thought that the ion channels are located at the base of the stereocilia but are indeed mechanoreceptors. in that they respond to mechanical pressure. excite many different regions of the basilar membrane simultaneously and there are specific cells in the auditory cortex that respond to these stimuli. this opens ion channels and causes the entry of ions into the hair cell and a generator potential develops. the basilar membrane is represented point for point on the auditory cortex. which contain many frequencies. 8. AUDITORY PATHWAY . which contact the overlying tectorial membrane. and also up the scala vestibuli and down the scala tympani. This natural topographical difference in structure results in different regions vibrating at different resonant frequencies.e. voices. One theory suggests a mechanical link to ion channels which opens a "trap door" as it is pulled taut.transmitted across the vestibular membrane to the endolymph of the cochlear duct. The vibrations are transmitted to the basilar membrane (see diagram opposite) which in turn vibrates at a particular frequency. depending upon the position along its length {high frequencies vibrate the window end where the basilar membrane is narrow and thick.Displacement of the stereocilia in the direction of the tallest stereocilia (called the kinocilium in hair cells of the vestibular system and immature auditory system) is excitatory and in the opposite direction is inhibitory. the vibrations in the scala tympani are dissipated out of the round window. The endolymph surrounding a hair cell is K+ rich and so K+ (and calcium) enter the hair cell. The cilia of the hair cells. 7. the generator potential causes transmitter release from the hair cells which excites the afferent nerve. Finally. The auditory cortex is therefore said to be tonotopically mapped.

For additional information: Ear structure South Bank University . pub. R. More detail: "The Senses" by H. Note that auditory input projects to both sides of the cortex. return to Teaching Menu or Tim Jacob homepage last update 2nd December 2002 . inferior colliculus. 1982. Barlow and J. 2nd ed.detailed info on structure . Carpenter. Axons from neurons in the cochlear nucleus project to the superior olive. [Bionic Ear] Reading list Basic text: "Neurophysiology". "Signals and Perception. 1995.S. the fundamentals of human sensation". 1988.B.Afferent nerves from the cochlear (spiral) ganglion terminate in the cochlear nucleus in the brainstem. 3rd ed.O. ISBN (pbk) 0 5221 28714 6 "An introduction to the physiology of hearing" by J. ISBN 0 340 50634 2. Mollon. 2002. Open University. 1990. ed.D. Academic Press. ISBN 0 12 554754 (pbk).H. The superior olive and the inferior colliculus send efferent fibres back to the stapedius and tensor tympani muscles respectively. David Roberts. Cambridge University Press. medial geniculate nucleus (of the thalamus) and the auditory cortex (Brodman areas 41 and 42). These muscles are concerned with protecting the middle ear bones from overload. Palgrave Macmillan. [Special Senses Menu] . Edward Arnold. pub. Pickles.

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