Today let’s look at the science behind why our ears are so sensitive.

According to Science Daily, the human ear can detect sound-wave-induced vibrations of the eardrum that move by less than the width of an atom and the ears are so sensitive that they can also detect vibrations a million times less intense than those that our sense of touch can detect. Now that is sensitive!

The article breaks down some recent research that looks to explain the science behind why our ears are so sensitive. First, you may know about the tiny hairs that line the inner ear. These tiny hairs convert sound wave vibrations into electric signals that our brain interprets. Researchers at MIT have been studying the membrane that lies on top of these hairs. This sponge-like membrane is called the tectorial membrane. The tectorial membrane is actually thinner than a strand of hair and is important for helping the auditory system distinguish varying frequencies of sound.

In their study, MIT researchers found that the key to our ear sensitivity has to do with the size and stiffness of the tectorial membrane and the location and function of tiny nanoscale pores on the membrane. How those nanoscale pores move water within the membrane proved to be what allows humans to have very sensitive ears. While the pieces of the human auditory system are small, this research shows that each piece, even structures thinner than a hair and “nano” in size, play a big role in helping us hear our best.

When you come to our hearing centers, our hearing care professionals don’t expect you to know all the science behind your hearing! In fact, we want you to just focus on what sounds you are missing the most, and then let our team determine the best treatment to get your ears back on track.