The human body has five senses used to process external stimuli and information – touch, taste, smell, sight and last but not least, hearing. The human ear is the sense organ that makes the phenomenon of sound possible. But not only does the ear handles sound, but it is also important in maintaining a person’s sense of balance and body position.
The ear is a part of the auditory system, which is a complex array of sensory organs that help translate incoming vibrations (or sound waves) into information that the human brain perceives as sound. The ear can be broken into three parts: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The visible portion of the ear is known as the pinna, which is essentially a flap of skin and cartilage that helps amplify and funnel sound waves into the ear canal. The sound waves continue until they reach the eardrum, located at the beginning of the middle ear. The sound wave vibrations continue through the hammer, anvil and stirrup, three delicate and sensitive bones that transfer these vibrations to the inner ear. The cochlea and Organ of Corti, both located in the inner ear, help translate the vibrations into nerve signals that are then taken to the brain for processing.
To answer an age-old question, if a tree falls in a forest and no one was around to hear it, it wouldn’t make a sound. Instead, it creates a series of sound waves that would be translated by the human ear as sound…if anyone were around when the tree fell.