General Science eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 347 pages of information about General Science.

[Illustration:  FIG. 194.—­The ear.]

277.  The Structure of the Ear.  The external portion of the ear acts as a funnel for catching sound waves and leading them into the canal, where they strike upon the ear drum, or tympanic membrane, and throw it into vibration.  Unless the ear drum is very flexible there cannot be perfect response to the sound waves which fall upon it; for this reason, the glands of the canal secrete a wax which moistens the membrane and keeps it flexible.  Lying directly back of the tympanic membrane is a cavity filled with air which enters by the Eustachian tube; from the throat air enters the Eustachian tube, moves along it, and passes into the ear cavity.  The dull crackling noise noticed in the ear when one swallows is due to the entrance and exit of air in the tube.  Several small bones stretch across the upper portion of the cavity and make a bridge, so to speak, from the ear drum to the far wall of the cavity.  It is by means of these three bones that the vibrations of the ear drum are transmitted to the inner wall of the cavity.  Behind the first cavity is a second cavity so complex and irregular that it is called the labyrinth of the ear.  This labyrinth is filled with a fluid in which are spread out the delicate sensitive fibers of the auditory nerves; and it is to these that the vibrations must be transmitted.

Suppose a note of 800 vibrations per second is sung.  Then 800 pulses of air will reach the ear each second, and the ear drum, being flexible, will respond and will vibrate at the same rate.  The vibration of the ear drum will be transmitted by the three bones and the fluid to the fibers of the auditory nerves.  The impulses imparted to the auditory nerve reach the brain and in some unknown way are translated into sound.

278.  Care of the Ear.  Most catarrhal troubles are accompanied by an oversupply of mucus which frequently clogs up the Eustachian tube and produces deafness.  For the same reason, colds and sore throat sometimes induce temporary deafness.

The wax of the ear is essential for flexibility of the ear drum; if an extra amount accumulates, it can be got rid of by bathing the ear in hot water, since the heat will melt the wax.  The wax should never be picked out with pin or sharp object except by a physician, lest injury be done to the tympanic membrane.

279.  The Phonograph.  The invention of the phonograph by Edison in 1878 marked a new era in the popularity and dissemination of music.  Up to that time, household music was limited to those who were rich enough to possess a real musical instrument, and who in addition had the understanding and the skill to use the instrument.  The invention of the phonograph has brought music to thousands of homes possessed of neither wealth nor skill.  That the music reproduced by a phonograph is not always of the highest order does not, in the least, detract from the interest and wonder of the instrument. 

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General Science from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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