Experiences that seem normal to you may be completely bizarre to someone else. Take, for instance, the ability to contract a muscle in the ear. It turns out, there is a small percentage of the population who can do this intentionally, making their ears roar.
As humans we have control over almost all of our skeletal musculature. Until recently, scientists thought we were unable to voluntarily contract the tensor tympani muscle in the middle ear.
The Importance of the Tensor Tympani
When a soundwave enters your ear, it hits your eardrum and causes a vibration. This vibration is transferred through a series of bones to the inner ear, where it is converted into an electrical impulse and sent through the auditory nerve to the brain.
The three bones in the middle ear are called the malleus, incus and stapes. The tensor tympani muscle is connected to the malleus, the bone closest to the eardrum. When the muscle contracts, it pulls the bone away from the eardrum and tenses the eardrum. When the eardrum is tensed, its ability to vibrate is limited.
The tensor tympani muscle reflexively tenses in responses to loud noise, helping the ear protect itself from damage. The muscle helps to mask low-frequency sounds, which helps us focus on the typically more important high-frequency sounds. In addition, experts believe the muscle contracts slightly in responses to self-generating sounds. This helps ensure that sounds we produce ourselves, like chewing, speaking, coughing and yawning, do not damage our inner ears.
Causing Your Ears to Roar
The sound you hear when the tensor timpani contacts is the sound of your own muscle. You will experience a muffling effect, which mimics covering your ears with your hands.
Try yawning. That rushing rumbly sound you hear is your tensor tympani muscles contracting.
This can be alarming if you are not aware of what is happening. A case report published in 2013 describes a 27-year-old patient. He visited his doctor complaining of tinnitus. It turned out that he was inadvertently contacting the tensor tympani muscles in both his ears. The roaring sound he heard was nothing to be concerned about.
Your ears are complex and should be protected. To learn more, contact the experts at Arizona Desert ENT Specialists today.