Intro to Life Science II
The Human Ear and Its Interactions
While most people hear sound and interact through using sound, most do not stop to really try to understand what is actually happening. This tends to be on an overall scale as well, not only do most not understand the mechanical processes that occur when our ears take in sound, but most do not understand what sound actually is, nor how the we interpret it. In this essay I will do my best to give a broad overview of the human ear, and even touch upon music and how we take it in audibly.
First off unlike our other senses that are chemical based ( smell, sight, taste) our hearing is completely mechanical. But before one can understand that, he/she must know what sound is. Sound is vibrations passing through matter, these vibrations are also called waves. The closer each wave is to its predecessor, the higher the Pitch, and vice versa, this is known as the frequency. And the decibel is how loud the sound is, or how great the initial vibration is. With this in mind we can begin to explore the ear itself. Starting with the outside we have this flap of skin and cartilage know as the pinna. The way it is cupped facing more so forwards is to give the ear understanding of the direction of the sounds it picks up. This is why sound from behind sounds a tad more muffled, and how we have an understanding of it coming from behind us. Like a cup used to catch water, our pinna is used to catch sound. Next is the outer ear, which is the inner pinna really, a connection to the ear canal, which captures and carries sound to the ear drum. The ear drum is very much like a real drum, an example of that would be if one put a bass drum next to an amplifier. Once a sound is passed through the amplifier, if it is pointed at the drum ( or even if it isn’t and its loud enough), the vibrations can be seen being picked up by the bass drum. That is essentially what the eardrum does, it captures the vibrations and passes them...
Robert J. Zatorre*‡, Joyce L. Chen*‡ and Virginia B. Penhune§‡, “When the brain plays music: auditory–motor interactions in music perception and production“, Nature Reviews: Neuroscience, July 2007 Volume 8: 547-558
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