How Does the Ear Process Sound from Inside the Body?

You asked, we answered.

By Mark Barna|Monday, April 10, 2017
RELATED TAGS: EVOLUTION, SENSES
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Q: How does the ear process sounds coming from inside the body? — Rowena Kong, Vancouver, British Columbia

A: You can hear some of your internal body sounds because your skeleton and inner tissues act as a conductor, guiding vibrations in the body to the inner ear. But oftentimes, inner-body sounds like this are picked up mostly by the outer ear in the conventional manner, says Dennis Trune of the Oregon Hearing Research Center. Try placing a ringing tuning fork atop your head, and your inner ear will pick up the sound, says Elizabeth Olson, an expert on hearing at Columbia University. The fork’s ring would be analogous, though exaggerated, to hearing inner-body sounds.

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Q: Can life begin in an extreme environment, without the luxury of adapting to it slowly from a nurturing environment? — Vincent Frisina, Danbury, Conn.

A: Life is a bit like Goldilocks: It requires the right temperatures (not too hot or cold), and the right chemical soup for cell creation and nutrition. “Early life would be very delicate and unable to survive in extreme environments, or even in most non-extreme environments that couldn’t support growth and division,” says Jack Szostak, a biophysicist and a co-recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2009.

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