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The Structure of the ear The human ear is one of the more remarkable parts of the human body, not only because of the beauty and unlikelihood of its structure, but also because of its remarkable sensitivity to sounds. Pulse Lite headphones boast big sound in a sleek, lightweight design, with integrated volume and playback control. The Pulse Lite comes with dynamic bass-enhanced audio, giving you wireless music and phone calls in crystal clear, stereo sound. Designed with users on the go in mind, the Pulse Lite’s integrated one-touch volume and playlist control button on the ear cup eliminates the need to scramble for your mobile device. If you occasionally hear your pulse in your ear, most often than not it isn't something to be greatly concerned about. Thump, Hiss, Whoosh - It is common for people to hear not only their pulse, but sloshing, hissing, or whooshing sounds, very often when first lying down at bedtime, or when suffering from a viral infection such as the flu. Tinnitus A Possibility - So, there are a host of things which can cause you to hear your pulse in your ear, which are really quite natural. For the most part though, it it's your pulse you hear, and it's only an occasional thing, and not really bothersome, there's probably nothing to be too concerned about. A condition called tinnitus causes unusual sounds in the ears: high-pitched hisses, lower-pitched buzzing sounds, clicking.
Conductive hearing loss makes it easier to hear blood flowing through two large blood vessels that travel through each ear. Your doctor will likely examine your ears and listen to the blood flow through the arteries in your neck. Harvard Health Publications is the publishing division of Harvard Medical School, providing the general public with authoritative, trustworthy, and accessible health information.
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Even if you hear your pulse in your ear fairly frequently, it doesn't necessarily mean that you're suffering from any particular disorder.
In fact hearing a pulse in your ear may just be a sign that you have a very acute sense of hearing.
If your pulse sounds steady, it's at least an indication that your cardiovascular system is hard at work, doing what it's supposed to be doing. What he was worried about was not that he might have an ear condition which could take away his hearing — he was worried that he might be going crazy!
On the other hand, if he heard the voice of Abraham Lincoln whispering in his ear, he might have something to worry about. This is a remarkably common problem; an estimated 50 million people in the United States have it to some degree. David Vernick, assistant clinical professor of otology and laryngology at Harvard Medical School. The accumulation of fatty buildup (plaque) inside the carotid arteries can create turbulent blood flow. When blood pressure is high, blood flow through the carotid artery is more likely to be turbulent. Tiny little muscles that attach to the bones inside the ear can sometimes go into spasms, and this can cause pulsatile tinnitus.
These are the carotid artery and the jugular vein, which circulate blood to and from the brain. He or she will listen for an unusual sound that blood makes when it rushes past an obstruction.
Anthony Komaroff is a practicing physician, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and Editor in Chief of Harvard Health Publications. The Content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Any mention of products or services is not meant as a guarantee, endorsement, or recommendation of the products, services, or companies. Hearing your pulse in your ear can be a sign of a disorder, or it can be a perfectly natural occurrence. There's nothing wrong with that of course, unless your hearing is too acute and too sensitive to the point where it can be bothersome.
These include an abnormal connection between an artery and vein, twisted arteries, or a benign blood vessel tumor behind the eardrum. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical condition. What you have written may be seen, disclosed to, or collected by third parties and may be used by others in ways we are unable to control or predict, including to contact you or otherwise be used for unauthorized or unlawful purposes. The carotid artery runs right next to the ear, and as it is a major artery, it shouldn't be too surprising if the ear would on occasion detect the pulse in that artery. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in a public group(s). As with any public forum on any site, this information may also appear in third-party search engines like Google, MSN, Yahoo, etc.


This outer third, which is about eight millimetres (one-third of an inch) long, has small hairs that point outwards to form a line of defence against small animals creeping in.
This can be particularly noticeable if you plug your ears with your fingers, place earplugs in your ears, or have an accumulation of ear wax that has become compacted. Tinnitus of often experienced as ringing in the ears, but hearing your pulse, pulsatile tinnitus, is also a possibility. The roots of the hairs produce oils and these mix with the secretions from nearby sweat-like glands to form the basis of wax. Tinnitus can result form a blockage, possibly in the outer ear canal, but more likely in the middle ear, where the Eustachian tube may have become blocked, usually with mucus or pus if there is an infection. Such a situation may be temporary, such as having a bad cold, or could be something more serious. At the far end of the ear canal and stretched across it is the eardrum (tympanic membrane), which forms the boundary between the outer and middle ears. The inner ear can also come into play, often then there is a fairly serious disorder or disease involved. Despite its name, it is not flat like the skin of a drum, but is slightly conical with the curved sides sloping inwards.
The larger lower three-quarters of the eardrum (the pars tensa) is tense and absorbs sound. The smaller upper portion of the membrane is more floppy because the fibres of the middle layer are not organised in regular patterns, and this region is called the pars flaccida. The middle ear itself (the tympanum) lies deep to the eardrum and is an air-filled space that holds three small bones (ossicles), which connect the eardrum to the inner ear. From the anvil, a long strut (the long process) descends back into the middle ear proper and is connected to the head of the stirrup.
The two arches (crura) of the stirrup join the footplate, which sits in a small (3 mm ? 2 mm) hole in the skull called the oval window (fenestra ovalis). Just below the oval window is another small hole into the inner ear called the round window (fenestra rotunda). A thin membrane closes this and, when the footplate of the stirrup moves ‘in and out’, the round window membrane moves ‘out and in’ because the fluid in the inner ear transmits the pressure changes. Unfortunately, this leaves only a small space for the passage of air from the middle ear to the attic.
This nerve leaves the brain and has to pass through the skull on its way to supply the muscles of facial expression, that is, muscles for frowning, winking, smiling, scowling, and so on. The nerve lies in a thin bony tube and runs horizontally from the front to the back of the middle ear just above the oval window and stirrup, before it turns downwards to leave the base of the skull. The facial nerve is therefore relatively vulnerable in diseases of the middle ear and, indeed, in middle-ear surgery itself. A facial palsy results in one side of the face being paralysed, so that the face droops and fails to move.
Smiling results in a scowl and drinking in dribbling, and the eye fails to close on blinking. This nerve is on its way to join the facial nerve in the middle ear where it ‘hitch-hikes’ a lift back to the brain.
The one at the front (tensor tympani) is attached at the top of the handle of the hammer and tenses up the eardrum when swallowing activates it.
The function of this muscle is not clear but it may be to make eating and swallowing a less noisy event. It responds to loud sounds by contracting and stiffening the chain of small bones, and possibly reduces transmission of prolonged and potentially damaging, loud sounds to the inner ear. It makes hearing possible by converting sound into electrical impulses that then travel along the hearing nerve (the acoustic nerve or auditory nerve) to the brain. The balance portions of the inner ear (vestibular labyrinth) can detect acceleration of the head in any direction whether in a straight line (linear) or twisting and turning (angular). This is a hollow coiled tube set in the very dense bone called the bony labyrinth (part of the petrous [rock­like] temporal bone).
This tube is filled with fluid, which is much the same as general body fluid (lymph) and that which surrounds the brain (cerebrospinal fluid – CSF). Inside the perilymph is another coiled triangular-shaped tube called the cochlear duct (scala media), which contains the all-important ‘hair cells’ – these convert sound into electricity.
These hair cells are arranged in two groups that follow the coils of the cochlear duct and spiral upwards from base to apex. There is a single row of inner hair cells (IHCs), which lie closer to the core of the cochlea (modiolus), and three or four rows of outer hair cells (OHCs), which are further away.
Each hair cell has a cluster of small rigid hairs (stereocilia), which project from the thicker upper surface of the cell into the special fluid that fills the cochlear duct.
This is a small ridge that sits on a thin, very flexible membrane called the basilar membrane. The sloping roof is another very thin membrane (Reissner’s membrane) and the side wall is a thickened region rich in blood vessels (the stria vascularis).
This structure is responsible for maintaining the composition of the rather unusual and very important endolymph. At least 90 per cent of these nerves come from the inner hair cells, despite their smaller number. Each inner hair cell has about 10 nerve endings attached to it and there are, therefore, about 30,000 nerve fibres in the acoustic nerve. This part of the brain deals with lots of automatic functions such as pulse, blood pressure, general alertness, balance, and so on.
For hearing, this conscious region is located in the temporal lobe portion of the brain, which lies on each side of the head just above the ear.


The waves of sound are rather like ripples on the surface of a pond spreading out after a stone has been thrown in. These waves have pitch (frequency) and that is the number of crests that pass a point in a second. In real life, it is easier to measure the pressure of the wave rather than its intensity and this pressure is measured in units called pascals (Blaise Pascal [1623–1662] was, among other things, a mathematician and physicist of genius working on statistics, probability and geometry, and atmospheric pressure). One pascal is rather large for sound pressure measurements so that micropascals (µPa), that is, one-millionth of a pascal, tend to be used.
This level forms the basis for measuring the pressure of other commonly heard sounds in our environment. For convenience these levels are recorded as decibels (dB) after Alexander Graham Bell (1847–1922), teacher of the deaf and inventor of the telephone, the audiometer and gramophone, who derived a convenient way of expressing this huge range of sound pressures.
You will have noticed how dogs prick up their ears in response to an interesting sound; this enables them not only to hear better but also to localise the source of a sound more accurately.
In humans, the convolu­tions of the pinna do help a little in both respects, but complete loss of the pinna only reduces the hearing by a few decibels, although sound localisation is impaired.
The resonance properties of a tube that is open at one end and closed at the other result in sounds being enhanced over a certain frequency range at the closed end of the tube.
The common example of resonance happens when you blow across the top of an empty bottle to produce a note. If the bottle is then partly filled with liquid, the note changes as the resonance properties change. The hammer, anvil and stirrup transfer this sound energy to the relatively small area of the oval window.
The operation of the middle-ear mechanism results in about 50 per cent of the sound reaching the eardrum being trans­ferred to the inner ear. This travelling wave builds up to a maximum for each particular pitch and then rapidly falls away to nothing. The location of the peak of the wave varies at different pitches: for high-pitched sounds, the wave peaks near the base of the cochlea, whereas for low-pitched sounds this peak is near its apex.
One edge of this is attached to the bony core at the centre of the cochlea (the modiolus); the other is loosely attached to the organ of Corti outside the outermost outer hair cell. If the movement of fluid is great enough, the hairs are deflected and very small channels open up some­where near the tips of the hairs. The potassium in the endolymph can now flood down through these small channels, being propelled by the very strong positive electrical charge of the endolymph into the bodies of the IHCs.
Here the influx of potassium alters the hair cell membrane and small parcels of chemicals are released from the base of the hair cell, causing the nearby nerves to become active and send pulsed signals towards the brain. About one-fifth of a second after detection, electrical signals reach the auditory areas of the brain (auditory cortex of the temporal lobes) and sounds are perceived.
There is the very well-balanced middle-ear mechanism, which generates the pressure changes in the cochlea that result in the complex travelling wave; this, in turn, depends on the delicate fine structure of the cochlea. There is the highly unusual fluid named the endolymph and a quite remarkable internal cochlear amplifier.
Reptiles, birds and mammals all have the same system, although the numbers of bones are different in the three groups and birds have only one strut-like bone between the eardrum and inner ear. The middle ear is, therefore, an air-filled space, lined with living tissue capable of producing both debris from dead surface cells and mucus from the glands. This creates two problems: first, clearing the debris and mucus and, second, a more subtle but very important problem.
Oxygen is absorbed from the air in the middle ear into the blood vessels running through its lining, in much the same way that oxygen is absorbed in the lungs.
Some carbon dioxide is given off from those same blood vessels into the air in the middle ear, but overall the effect is a drop in middle-ear pressure as more oxygen is removed than carbon dioxide produced. With atmospheric pressure outside the eardrum, something has to ‘give’ and the only thing that can move is the eardrum.
This would be pushed inwards by the external pressure and the eardrum would then stop working normally. Eventually the whole middle ear would collapse and a significant hearing loss would develop.
This tube runs forwards and inwards from the front wall of the middle ear to open into the back of the nasal cavity above the soft palate (the nasopharynx). Although we do not know precisely how this mechanism works, when the eustachian tube opens, enough air enters the middle ear to replenish the oxygen that has been absorbed and so keep the middle-ear pressures close to atmospheric.
This thin film of mucus, carrying the debris produced in the middle ear, is moved along the floor of the eustachian tube with air passing above it to reach the middle ear from the nose. Thus, the two functions of ventilation and self-cleansing are achieved when the system is working properly. Unfortunately, in humans, the mechanism is rather fragile and often fails to work adequately, possibly because of the shape of the skull that is needed to accommodate the large brain. The mastoid bone should be hollow, with the air-filled spaces broken up by small and incomplete bony partitions rather like a honeycomb. The average mastoid has an air volume of about 15–20 millilitres (three to four teaspoons) and this helps to buffer pressure changes in the middle ear and reduce adverse effects on the tympanic membrane.
People with small mastoid air spaces seem to be at a much greater risk of developing middle-ear and mastoid disease. As yet, we do not fully understand whether it is middle-ear and mastoid disease that cause the failure of the mastoid to develop, or whether a small size reduces the pressure buffer and therefore causes the development of disease.



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