5 Things You’ve Never HEARD About Your Ears

Woman looks off to the right of a city street, displaying one of her ears.

Photo by Dimitar Belchev on Unsplash.

Listen Up!

It’s never a bad time to learn a few facts about the human body, specifically about one of the most important structures we have. The ears are one (or… two) of those vital structures. And hey, if nothing else, you can take these factoids to trivia night and make a killing in the random hearing facts category. That’s a thing, right…?

5 Rare Facts About The Ears

A blurred figure stands amongst abstract line art.

Photo by Jr Korpa on Unsplash.

1) Some people, known as chromesthetes, see colors when they hear sounds. For instance, the sound of a strummed bass guitar may literally paint a streak of dark blue in their peripheral vision, or the sound of applause, splashes of burgundy, or a scream, a pillar of yellow. This phenomenon is one of many types of synesthesia, a neurological condition where the triggering of one sense can lead to the immediate triggering of another. Essentially, ears can be cross-wired with the visual cortex, thereby producing people who can see sounds.

Even more interesting is when chromesthetes become artists. Melissa McCracken is one such artist! She has made a career painting the colors she sees whilst listening to popular songs. I think they’re stunning— check them out here.

Dejected man sits with one hand covering an ear.

Photo by Frank McKenna on Unsplash.

2) Auditory hallucinations exist! Also referred to as paracusia, a person may be experiencing an auditory hallucination if they hear a sound with no external origin (tinnitus doesn’t count, as it has an internal origin). While most auditory hallucinations indicate some form of neurological disorder, that is not always the case. Fever, migraine, and severe anxiety can also bring them on.

Woman takes a bite out of a piece of pizza.

Photo by Damian Barczak on Unsplash.

3) Your ears can influence your sense of taste. It’s common knowledge that what we smell, see, and touch influences the way we experience food, but your ears also hold sway over taste. While you can’t put a French fry in your ear and expect to taste it, your tongue and ears share essential nerves. So, if you have an ear infection and the inner mechanisms of your ear have seized up, it’s likely that you won’t taste things the same way as you do when you’re healthy.

Two rounded snail shells rest on a dry branch.

Photo by Wolfgang Hasselmann on Unsplash.

4) You have snails in your ears! Well, only figuratively! Just behind the eardrum sits a network of incredibly small bones. One of them is called the cochlea, a spiral-shaped tube filled with fluid that translates vibrations into neurological impulses. This spiral-shaped tube looks almost exactly like a snail shell. So much so that even medical students refer to it as “the snail.”

Man uses a finger to adjust his hearing aid.

Photo by Mark Paton on Unsplash.

5) Last but not least, any sounds over 85 decibels can damage your ears permanently. How loud is 85 dB?  Not loud. It’s only slightly louder than your average toilet flushing. And to make matters worse, the longer you listen to sounds, even at a “safe” level, the more likely they are to cause damage. For instance, if you’re exposed to an 85 dB dishwasher running for five minutes, the chance of that doing damage to your ears is rather slim. However, if you’re a dishwasher technician and hear that same 85 dB washing sounds for nine hours a day, you’ll have done the same harm to your hearing as if someone had fired a shotgun beside you.

Unlike parts of the body designed to take a hit, ears are deceptively delicate. It only takes a small amount of sound to cause permanent hearing loss, and very few people know!

This article is a sequel! If you’re concerned about dangerous decibels or are wondering how you can take better care of your ears, read part one here.

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About Cristin Dickey

Born in Maryland, raised in Texas, and educated in Utah, Cristin is a purveyor of stories from all widths and walks of life.  With a background in filmmaking and a staunch passion for literature, she aspires to give digital spaces a uniquely human touch.

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