Major Funding The Laura Moore Cunningham Foundation

Hearing: Top 10 Questions

February 2007

1: Bonus! Can earwigs get into your ears and bore into your brain?

No. Earwax has an agent in it that is toxic to most bugs. Besides, earwax is sticky, so if any bugs do get into your ear, they would get stuck in the outer one-third and wouldn't cause any problems.

2: Why do we get dizzy?

There are three parts of our body that help us to know where we are in the world in terms of our balance. One is called our tactile sensation of where we are in the world. Another is vision, where we can see. The third is our inner ear. If we turn our head one direction, the fluid in our inner ear goes the opposite direction. We turn the other way; the fluid turns in the other direction. It lets us know where we are in the world in terms of the horizon. So if there's a problem with that inner ear system, then you'll have dizziness. If you spin around on a Tilt-a-whirl, it can cause residual dizziness. (From Mikayla)

3: If you were born without the outer part of your ear, would you still be able to hear?

You can. The outer part of the ear helps funnel sound to make it more easily heard. If the canal, however, is pinched off or if there's bone and no opening to the ear canal, you'll have a greater degree of hearing loss because the sound needs to be loud enough to get through the bone or through the tissue to get to the cochlea. (From Dallas at Gooding Elementary)

4: How do you get an ear infection?

When you have fluid in the middle ear space. It should be an air-filled area — if you get fluid in it, because you have a cold and blew your nose and blew stuff up there, it can cause an ear infection because it's a breeding ground for bacteria. Babies seem to get more ear infections because their eustachian tube is almost a straight shot from the back of the throat up, so it's easy for bacteria to be lodged there. (From Reed in Caldwell)

5: Can you actually break your eardrum?

Yes, like you can tear your skin, you can break your eardrum. Q-tips can break the eardrum. A blow to the head can cause an eardrum to break. The most common are Q-tips. The old saying is true. Never put anything in your ear except your elbow. (From Conner)

6: How do hearing aids help deaf people?

People with hearing loss hear by amplifying the sounds around them. They amplify them differently depending upon whether it's a soft, medium or loud sound or whether it's speech or noise.

There are as many different kinds of hearing aids as there are people. It's important to make sure it's most appropriate for that person's hearing needs. Some hearing aids go behind the ear. Some hearing aids go in the ear. Others have a cochlear implant. A cochlear implant bypasses the outer ear and middle ear altogether.

The success of a hearing aid is dependent upon the individual getting a good test with the hearing aid to decide what's best and also how it should be set. (From Bridger at Pine School)

7: Does the eardrum repair itself after getting hurt?

The eardrum is skin. Just like when you have a cut on your hand and your skin will heal, the eardrum also will heal if left alone and left dry. It is able to reknit itself. (From Jacob)

8: Why do ears pop?

Ears pop to equalize the pressure. We have air pressure inside our eardrum and atmospheric pressure outside, which is zero. We like those to be equal. If there's a difference we will yawn or open our ears, and that will pop the ears and make the pressure behind the eardrum equal to the pressure outside. (From Summer in Nampa)

9: Why are your ears sensitive? How come it hurts with a loud noise?

It's the brain's way of protecting us, like if you stick your finger in your eye and you see sparkly lights. It's your brain's reaction. It's the brain's way of saying, "Let's not go there again." It is like your quick reaction when you touch a hot stove. (From Katie and Tristan in Gooding)

10: How loud can you play your headphones and not risk your hearing?

Probably the easiest way to know is — if somebody standing next to you can hear the music, it's too loud. Another way to know is — if you have to raise your voice to be heard from about three feet, then it's too loud and you should turn down the volume. (From Harrison in Mrs. Reeve's 5th grade class at Adams Elementary in Boise)

11: What are the most common causes of deafness?

The most common cause is genetics and hereditary. The second is noise-induced hearing loss, noise exposure, like if you have an iPOD and you're listening with headphones too loud, or if you're around machinery like lawn mowers and snow blowers. If you have ringing in your ears, it indicates that you may have some damage. (From Hunter in Mrs. Cameron's 4th grade class at Cynthia Mann Elementary in Boise)

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