Your outer ears are important to hearing, too

Photo credit: Travis Isaacs licensed under CC BY 2.0

by Daniel Fink, MD, Chair, The Quiet Coalition

Those of us concerned about noise and hearing focus on noise damaging the inner ear and associated nerve structures, but the outer ear has an important role to play in hearing. It collects sound waves and directs them to the external auditory canal, but it also does more.

This report in the Science section of the New York Times discusses how the shape of the external ear helps humans determine exactly where a sound came from.

We can protect our hearing either by covering the pinna–the part of the external ear that we see–with ear muff hearing protection, or inserting ear plugs into the other part of the external ear, the external auditory canal. What’s important is to choose a method to protect your hearing and stick with it.

Dr. Daniel Fink is a leading noise activist based in the Los Angeles area. He serves on the board of the American Tinnitus Association, is the interim chair of Quiet Communities’s Health Advisory Council, and is the founding chair of The Quiet Coalition, an organization of science, health, and legal professionals concerned about the impacts of noise on health, environment, learning, productivity, and quality of life in America.

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