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  • We have noses to smell, eyes to see, and ears to hear, right?

  • Well, actually, your ears are responsible for much more than just hearing.

  • In fact, they can even help you taste.

  • And that's all thanks to what's inside.

  • We think of ears as these flappy appendages that stick out of our heads.

  • But the most important structures are actually on the inside, and they're known as the inner and middle ear.

  • Inside your middle ear is the nerve that moves the muscles of your face.

  • Aka, the facial nerve.

  • And if it becomes inflamed or injured, say, from a nasty ear infection, you can lose control of the muscles in your face.

  • But it could actually get worse.

  • Now, along that facial nerve there is a taste nerve.

  • It's called chorda tympani.

  • That's right, the nerve for taste runs right through your middle ear.

  • And if that nerve gets damaged, you could alter or even lose your sense of taste permanently.

  • By the way, not only are your ears incredibly important for tasting food, but what you're listening to can also change your food's flavor.

  • For example, research has shown that white noise can dull saltiness but enhance crunchiness.

  • And in one study, volunteers perceived a dish to be eggier when they listened to the sound of clucking chickens.

  • But whether it's the sound of chickens or my beautiful voice, it all enters your ear through the cochlea, a shell-like structure in the inner ear.

  • Inside the cochlea, there are over 16,000 hair-like cells, which take vibrations entering your ear and convert them into nerve impulses.

  • Those impulses travel to your brain, which turns them into the sound you hear.

  • So if it weren't for those cells, you'd be deaf.

  • Which is why it's incredibly important that you keep them protected.

  • Especially from menaces like bacteria, viruses, and even adventurous insects.

  • And for that, your ears' best defense is earwax.

  • Earwax is good.

  • It is not bad to have earwax.

  • That's right.

  • You need that gross, golden wax.

  • It not only has antibacterial properties, but it's also downright sticky, helping to stop invaders right in their tracks.

  • But earwax isn't the only part of your inner ear that keeps you healthy.

  • So, there is a tube made of muscle that connects the back of your nose and your ears.

  • It's called the eustachian tube, and it helps equalize pressure between your ears and the atmosphere around you.

  • Normally the tube is sealed off so nothing can travel between your ears and your throat, which keeps infections at bay.

  • But when there's a change in pressure, like when you're taking off in an airplane, the air inside the tube expands.

  • Which typically makes you want to pop your ears.

  • And that's a good thing too, because popping your ears opens the tube and releases the air, balancing the pressure inside and out.

  • Speaking of balance, there's one other incredibly important structure you can find inside your inner ear: the vestibular system.

  • Kind of like a level, it controls your balance using a number of liquid-filled canals.

  • Those balance canals are responsible for telling your body you are moving.

  • Whether it may be moving left to right or your body's moving up and down.

  • As you move around, fluid in the canals sloshes against millions of hair-like structures called stereocilia, and this sends a signal to the brain where you process it as movement.

  • That's why infections like the common cold can sometimes make you feel dizzy.

  • They often cause inflammation in the vestibular nerve, which distorts those signals.

  • So the next time you find yourself walking without falling over, or tasting your food, or listening to, well, anything, think of your ears.

  • Which, as it turns out, have a lot more going on inside than out.

We have noses to smell, eyes to see, and ears to hear, right?

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