The Structure of the Ear
Speaking and Hearing
The external portion of the ear acts as a funnel for catching sound waves and leading them into the canal, where they strike upon the ear drum, or tympanic membrane, and throw it into vibration. Unless the ear drum is very flexible there cannot be perfect response to the sound waves which fall upon it; for this reason, the glands of the canal secrete a wax which moistens the membrane and keeps it flexible. Lying directly back of the tympanic membrane is a cavity filled with air which enters by the Eustachian tube; from the throat air enters the Eustachian tube, moves along it, and passes into the ear cavity. The dull crackling noise noticed in the ear when one swallows is due to the entrance and exit of air in the tube. Several small bones stretch across the upper portion of the cavity and make a bridge, so to speak, from the ear drum to the far wall of the cavity. It is by means of these three bones that the vibrations of the ear drum are transmitted to the inner wall of the cavity. Behind the first cavity is a second cavity so complex and irregular that it is called the labyrinth of the ear. This labyrinth is filled with a fluid in which are spread out the delicate sensitive fibers of the auditory nerves; and it is to these that the vibrations must be transmitted.
Suppose a note of 800 vibrations per second is sung. Then 800 pulses of air will reach the ear each second, and the ear drum, being flexible, will respond and will vibrate at the same rate. The vibration of the ear drum will be transmitted by the three bones and the fluid to the fibers of the auditory nerves. The impulses imparted to the auditory nerve reach the brain and in some unknown way are translated into sound.