Thursday, 12 February 2015

Do bigger ears help you hear better?


The size of your ears don’t make any difference to your hearing. In fact, the shape and size have more to do with keeping you cool and releasing heat than anything else. This is why the African elephants have such large ears.

The ear has three main parts – the outer, middle and inner. The outer ear channels sound through the ear canal. The middle enhances the sound with three hearing bones. One of the bones, the ‘stapes’, is connected to a thin layer of tissue which covers the entry point of the inner ear – the cochlea. The cochlea is a small, snail-shaped tube with sensory hearing cells. When the membrane in the cochlea vibrates the hearing cells are displaced.

We have two types of hair cells – outer and inner. The outer hair cells boost soft sounds and quieten loud sounds. Whereas the inner hair cells transfer the sound to the auditory nerve – it is this nerve that channels the sound signals to the brainstem cortex which in turn processes and deciphers its meaning. Over time, the outer hairs reduce so that by the age of 70 you will only have 70% of the hairs left. It’s at this point that hearing aids are used.

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