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Health Information For Teens
The ear is made up of three different sections that work together to collect sounds and send them to the brain: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.
The outer ear is made up of the pinna — also called the auricle (pronounced: OR-ih-kul) — and the ear canal. The pinna is the part of the ear you see on the side of your head. It’s made of tough
covered by skin. Its main job is to gather sounds and funnel them to the ear canal, which is the pathway that leads to the middle ear. Glands in the skin lining the ear canal make earwax, which protects the canal by cleaning out dirt and helping to prevent infections.
The middle ear is an air-filled cavity that turns sound waves into vibrations and delivers them to the inner ear. The middle ear is separated from the outer ear by the eardrum, or tympanic membrane, a thin piece of tissue stretched tight across the ear canal. Sounds hit the eardrum, making it move.
This movement leads to vibrations of three very small bones in the middle ear known as the ossicles (pronounced: AH-sih-kuls). The ossicles are:
To hear properly, the pressure on both sides of your eardrum must be equal. When you go up or down in elevation, the air pressure changes and you may feel a popping sensation as your ears adjust. Ears adjust thanks to the narrow Eustachian (pronounced: yoo-STAY-she-en) tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and acts as a sort of pressure valve, so the pressure stays balanced on both sides of the eardrum.
The vibrations from the middle ear change into nerve signals in the inner ear. The inner ear includes the cochlea (pronounced: KOH-klee-uh) and the semicircular canals. The snail-shaped cochlea changes the vibrations from the middle ear into nerve signals. These signals travel to the brain along the cochlear nerve, also known as the auditory nerve.
The semicircular canals look like three tiny connected tubes. It’s their job to help you balance. The canals are filled with fluid and lined with tiny hairs. When your head moves, the fluid in the canals sloshes around, moving the hairs. The hairs send this position information as signals through the vestibular (pronounced: veh-STIB-yuh-ler) nerve to your brain. The brain interprets these signals and sends messages to the muscles that help keep you balanced.
When you spin around and stop, the reason you feel dizzy is because the fluid in your semicircular canals continues to slosh around for awhile, giving your brain the idea that you’re still spinning even when you aren’t. When the fluid stops moving, the dizziness goes away.
The cochlear nerve, which is attached to the cochlea and sends sound information to the brain, and the vestibular nerve, which carries balance information from the semicircular canals to the brain, together make up the vestibulocochlear (pronounced: vess-tib-yuh-lo-KOH-klee-er) nerve.
Take good care of your ears! Here are some smart steps:
If you have any trouble hearing, let your doctor know right away. If hearing loss is treated early, the damage can be limited.
Hearing impairment occurs when there’s a problem with or damage to one or more parts of the ear. Find out its causes and what can be done to help correct it.
Want to hear what’s being said to you, by you, and about you? Find out how hearing aids help people with certain types of hearing loss.
Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the ear canal that can be caused by different types of bacteria or fungi. Find out how to prevent or treat it.
Earbuds are basically a tiny pair of speakers that go inside the ears. They’re fine at low volumes, but they can cause permanent hearing loss if not used properly. Find out what’s safe (and not) in this article for teens.
Do you know someone who stutters or has another speech disorder? Find out how speech disorders are treated, how you can help a friend or classmate cope, and lots more.
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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