Special Senses: Hearing and Balance (Equilibrium)

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1 Crafton Hills - Human Anatomy & Physiology - ANAT 151 Special Senses: Hearing and Balance (Equilibrium) A. Anatomy of the Ear 1. General Characteristics a. Three parts of ear: Inner, outer, & middle b. Outer & middle ear are involved with hearing c. Inner ear functions: Hearing & Equilibrium d. Receptors for hearing and balance: i. Respond to separate stimuli 2. Outer Ear a. Auricle (pinna) is composed of: i. Helix (rim) ii. Lobule (earlobe) b. External auditory canal i. Short, curved tube filled with ceruminous glands c. Tympanic membrane (eardrum) i. Thin connective tissue membrane that vibrates in response to sound ii. Transfers sound energy to the middle ear ossicles iii. Boundary between outer and middle ears 3. Middle Ear (Tympanic Cavity) a. Small, air-filled, mucosa-lined cavity i. Flanked laterally by the eardrum ii. Flanked medially by the oval & round windows b. Epitympanic recess - superior portion of middle ear c. Pharyngotympanic (Eustation) tube: Connects middle ear to nasopharynx i. Equalizes middle ear cavity with external air pressure d. Ear Ossicles i. 3 Bones of tympanic cavity: Malleus, Incus, & Stapes 1) VERY small! 2) Transmit vibration from eardrum to oval window 3) Dampened by tensor tympani & stapedius muscles Crafton Hills - Hearing & Equilibrium - Page 1 of 5

2 4. Inner Ear a. Bony labyrinth (portion) i. Chamber/channel in the temporal bone ii. Contains: Vestibule, Cochlea, & Semicircular canals iii. Filled with perilymph b. Membranous labyrinth (portion) i. Set of membranous sacs within the bony labyrinth ii. Filled with a potassium-rich fluid c. Vestibule i. Central egg-shaped cavity of bony labyrinth ii. Suspended in perilymph are: Saccule & Utricle 1) House equilibrium receptors called maculae a) Respond to gravity and changes in the position of the head iii. Saccule: Sac extends into the cochlea iv. Utricle: Sac extends into semicircular canals v. Semicircular Canals (3) 1) 2/3 of a circle & lie in the three planes of space 2) Membranous semicircular ducts line each canal & communicate with utricle 3) Ampulla: a) Swollen end of each canal b) Houses equilibrium receptors in a region called the crista ampullaris (sensitive to angular head movements) vi. Cochlea 1) Spiral, conical, bony-defined chamber 2) Extends from anterior vestibule 3) Contains cochlear duct 4) Contains the Organ of Corti (hearing receptor) 5) Three chambers: a) Scala Tympani: terminates at the round window b) Scalas Vestibuli: (and tympani) - Are filled with perilymph - Continuous with each other via helicotrema c) Scala Media: Filled with endolymph Crafton Hills - Hearing & Equilibrium - Page 2 of 5

3 d) Cochlear branch of cranial nerve VIII runs from the organ of Corti to the brain (vestibulocochlear) B. Sound & Mechanisms of Hearing 1. Sound vibrations beat against the eardrum 2. Eardrum pushes against ossicles, presses fluid in inner ear against oval & round windows a. This movement sets up shearing forces that pull on hair cells b. Moving hair cells stimulates the cochlear nerve that sends impulses to the brain 3. Properties of Sound: a. Definition: Sound is a pressure disturbance - Alternating areas of high pressure [compression] & low pressure [rarefaction]) originating from a vibrating object b. Sound can be represented by a sine wave in wavelength, frequency, and amplitude c. Frequency: Number of waves that pass a given point in a given time - Pitch: Perception of different frequencies (we hear from 20-20,000 Hz) d. Amplitude: Intensity of a sound measured in decibels (db) - Loudness: Subjective interpretation of sound intensity 4. Sound Pathway to Inner Ear a. Outer ear - pinna, auditory canal, eardrum b. Middle ear - malleus, incus, & stapes to the oval window c. Inner ear - scalas vestibuli & tympani to the cochlear duct i. Stimulation of the organ of Corti ii. Generation of impulses in the cochlear nerve C. Process of Sound Transduction 1. Resonance of Basilar Membrane a. Inaudible Sound waves: low frequency i. Travel around the helicotrema ii. Do not excite hair cells b. Audible sound waves: i. Penetrate through the cochlear duct ii. Vibrate the basilar membrane iii. Excite specific hair cells according to frequency of the sound 2. Organ of Corti a. Made of supporting cells & outer & inner hair cells (link to cochlear nerve at base) Crafton Hills - Hearing & Equilibrium - Page 3 of 5

4 b. The stereocilia (hairs): i. Protrude into the endolymph ii. Touch the tectorial membrane c. Excitation of Cortical Hair Cells i. Bending cilia: 1) Opens mechanically gated ion channels 2) Causes a graded potential and the release of a neurotransmitter (probably glutamate) to cochlear fibers 3. Auditory Pathway to Brain ("the rest, of the story") a. Cochlear nuclei b. Impulses then sent to: i. Superior olivary nucleus ii. Inferior colliculus (auditory reflex center) c. Impulses then sent to auditory cortex - Both cortices receive input from both ears 4. Auditory Processing a. Pitch (frequency) perceived by: i. Primary Auditory Cortex & Cochlear nuclei b. Loudness perceived by: i. Varying thresholds of cochlear cells ii. Number of cells stimulated c. Localization perceived by superior olivary nuclei that determine sound 5. Deafness - Failure of Sound Transduction Process a. Conduction deafness - Sound conduction to the fluids of the inner ear hampered (e.g., impacted earwax, perforated eardrum, etc.) b. Sensorineural deafness - From damage to neural structures at any point from cochlear hair cells to the auditory cortical cells c. Tinnitus - Ringing or clicking sound in ears in the absence of auditory stimuli D. Equilibrium and Orientation 1. Mechanisms of Equilibrium & Orientation a. Vestibular apparatus - equilibrium receptors in the semicircular canals and vestibule Crafton Hills - Hearing & Equilibrium - Page 4 of 5

5 i. Characteristics 1) Maintains our orientation & balance in space 2) Vestibular receptors monitor static equilibrium 3) Semicircular canal receptors monitor dynamic equilibrium ii. Maculae: Sensory receptors for Static equilibrium 1) Contain supporting cells & hair cells - Each hair cell w/stereocilia & kinocilium embedded in otolithic membrane 2) Otolithic membrane - jellylike mass studded with tiny CaCO 3 stones (otoliths) 3) Utricular hairs respond to horizontal movement 4) Saccular hairs respond to vertical movement 5) Utricular Receptor Cells: Effect of Gravity a) Otolithic movement towards of the kinocilia: - Depolarizes vestibular nerve fibers - Increases the number of A.P.s generated b) Otolithic movement away from kinocilia: - Hyperpolarizes vestibular nerve fibers - Reduces the rate of impulses c) Thus, rate of impulses (direction hairs are bent) tells brain direction of movement (changing position of the head) iii. Crista ampullaris (crista): Dynamic equilibrium 1) Receptor in ampulla of each semicircular canal 2) Responds to angular movements (changes in velocity of rotatory head movements) 3) Each crista has support cells & hair cells extending into gel-like cupula 4) Activating Crista Ampullaris Receptor: Directional bending of cristae s hair cells a) Depolarizations: Impulses reach the brain at a faster rate b) Hyperpolarizations: Fewer impulses reach the brain (slower rate) c) Thus, rate of impulses (direction hairs are bent) tells brain direction of rotational head movements Crafton Hills - Hearing & Equilibrium - Page 5 of 5

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