I was always under the impression that the auditory hairs located deep within the ear, past the ear drum, are microscopic.

After taking a shower today, I was softly padding my outer ear with some tissue paper to dry any moisture, when some wax just got attached to it. What was unusual was that there were some hairs on it (3-5 perhaps, overlapping) that were about half a centimeter in length.

Are these just regular hairs that grow in the inner/outer ear? Or are they the ones that actually aid in hearing (the ones I thought were microscopic).

My question is to verify whether or not these hair shafts I observed are used in auditory perception. Either way, are these supposed to fall off?


1 Answer 1


Those are just ordinary hairs growing in your ear, like the kind you find in your nose and, if you are fortunate, on the top of your head. The "hair cells" of the inner ear aren't really "hairs" at all, they are totally different, and you would never find them falling out of your ear.

Hairs like on your head are protein filaments produced by follicles in the skin.

Hair cells in the inner ear, on the other hand, are sensory epithelial cells with stereocilia, which are protrusions of the cell membrane. Those membrane protrusions have mechanically gated channels which are coupled to nearby protrusions; when the whole cell is pushed one way or the other, that influences the mechanical stress on those channels and they open and close, which produces an electrical signal that can be sensed by the auditory nerve.

These special 'hair cells' are way way deep in your ear, past your ear drum, past three little bones that conduct sound into your cochlea. If you are touching those, you are in bad shape indeed - this is very very unlikely under normal circumstances.


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