The sense of hearing alerts a person to possible danger — Is that rustling in the tall grass the wind, or a stalking lion? Is that creak the house settling or a burglar? — but it is a source of great pleasure. Many people would find life dingy without being able to hear their favorite music, the songs of birds or the voices of loved ones. Here are eight fun facts about hearing:
1. The Ear Has the Smallest Bones in the Body
The bones in the ear are tiny. They are the malleus, the stapes, and the incus, or the hammer, the stirrup, and the anvil. Together, they’re known as the ossicles. They help people hear from vibrating.
The hardest bone in the body is also in the inner ear. It is the temporal bone.
2. The Cochlea is Named After a Snail
The cochlea, found deep inside the ear, is a hollow, spiral that has three chambers, the Organ of Corti and hair cells. It gets its name because of its shape, which reminds people of a snail shell. Kōhlias is the Greek word for a spiral snail shell.
The number of hair cells in the cochlea determines how well a person hears. If those hairs are lost or damaged, the person can lose their hearing.
3. Human Hearing is Pretty Good
Humans can hear frequencies between 20 Hertz, or Hz and about 20,000 Hz, though the ability to hear higher frequencies fades a bit with age. However, the greater wax moth can hear up to 300 kilohertz. On the other end of the spectrum, sounds as low as 0.5 Hz can be heard by pigeons.
4. Alexander Graham Bell Didn’t Invent Hearing Aids, But He Tried
Around 1872, Alexander Graham Bell started to conduct electrical experiments to help deaf children hear. He never did invent hearing aids, but his experiments did lead to the invention of the telephone.
5. Ears Still Work When People are Asleep
The ears still pick up sounds when people are sleeping, but the brain ignores or blocks them, most times.
6. Old Age Doesn’t Mean Deafness
Most people who start to lose their hearing are under 65. The biggest cause of hearing loss is being exposed to really loud noises. This would be 85 decibels and up. Even one exposure to very loud noise can damage a person’s hearing permanently.
7. Ears Help With Balance
Ears not only help people hear but are necessary for balance. This is due to the fluid in the semicircular canals attached to the cochlea. If these canals are diseased or injured, people lose their balance and suffer vertigo.
8. The Ear is Self-Cleaning
Though ear wax is a bit gross, it helps to protect and clean the ear. However, if there’s too much wax in the ear it can interfere with hearing. Ideally, impacted ear wax should be removed by a doctor.
Finding out about hearing is both fun and fascinating. The information humans get from their sense of hearing is vital, but so are the pleasures that hearing brings.