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Sensory System

Hearing

What is the auditory tube and its function?

The auditory tube (Eustachian tube) connects each middle ear to the throat. This tube conducts air between the tympanic cavity and the outside of the body by way of the throat and mouth. It also helps maintain equal air pressure on both sides of the eardrum, which is necessary for normal hearing. The function of the auditory tube can be experienced during rapid change in altitude. As a person moves from a high altitude to a lower one, the air pressure on the outside of the membrane becomes greater and greater. As a result, the eardrum may be pushed inward, out of its normal position, and hearing may be impaired. When the air pressure difference is great enough, some air may force its way up through the auditory tube into the middle ear. This allows the pressure on both sides of the eardrum to equalize, and the drum moves back to its regular position. An individual usually hears a popping sound at this time, and normal hearing is restored. A reverse movement of air occurs when a person moves from a low altitude to a higher one.



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