Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Drumming Sound
30 October 2012

Drumming Sound

Have you ever experienced that uncomfortable feeling in your ears as an aeroplane takes off? The pressure change as we climb higher into the sky causes unpleasant sensations because our ears have not had time to adjust. Other than deep sea diving, flying is one of the few occasions when we’re aware of our eardrums. Known as the tympanic membrane by scientists, the eardrum separates the middle and inner ear from the environment and converts sound into vibrations that are further processed for our brain to register. Explosions and physical trauma to the ear can cause rupture of the membrane that may lead to infections and hearing difficulty. Some World War II pilots intentionally ruptured their eardrums to stop air pressure problems when flying and the Bajau tribe of the South Pacific do the same to facilitate deep sea diving, albeit often with severe consequences for their hearing.

Written by Georgina Askeland

  • Image originally published under Creative Commons (CC-BY-NC-ND); Courtesy of Wellcome Images

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