Like the human ear, rabbits’ ears have three sections: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear.
This is the long part that is visible to everyone. It’s also called the pinna. It can move and help their brain receive signals. Their size can span between resembling a kitten’s ears to extremely long ears that make up 12% of the surface area of a rabbit. Rabbits with ears that point upwards can turn their ears almost 270 degrees, which lets them detect where a noise is coming from or allows them to hear two sounds simultaneously.
A healthy blood flow travels through the pinna. The vast surface area transfers heat through the blood vessels. When a rabbit becomes overheated, the vessels in its ears will become swollen with blood. This is one of the primary areas that regulate their body temperature. When blood circulates through the ear it releases heat, making blood that recirculates to the rest of the body cool down. When a rabbit is placed in a cold environment and attempts to conserve body heat, vessels in the ears become constricted which slows down blood flow and reduces the amount of heat that is lost.
The remaining parts of the outer ear are made of a curved canal that is bent in a vertical position and then almost horizontally so that it leads to the eardrum. This area of the ear tends to have a lot of earwax and debris buildup, which may lead to an infection. Most rabbits are skillful at cleaning out any of this buildup using the back of their toenail, but rabbits with long floppy ears need help. The ear canal has a bend, so it’s possible for humans to safely accomplish this. Ask your veterinarian to demonstrate how to accomplish this.
The middle ears are located near the center in the back of a rabbit’s head. The middle ear is a gap full of air that is separated from the outer ear by the eardrum or tympanic membrane. A link of tiny bones known as ossicles is found inside this membrane. The ossicles are made up of three parts known as the hammer, anvil, and stirrup. These three bones move the pressure from sound waves from the eardrum to the inner ear, which is filled with fluid. Sounds travel easier by air than through liquid, so the frequencies may not travel to the inner ear and be interpreted by the brain as easily. Most of the energy from sounds will move to the inner ear. If a sound is too loud, muscles connected to the ossicles can tense up to reduce the amount of sound that is transferred and help to stop the inner ear from becoming damaged.
After leaving the middle ears, the sound wave moves through the fluid in the inner ears. There are two primary parts of the inner ear: the cochlea - a snail shell-shaped tube that processes sound waves that are sent by the ossicles. It then relays information to the brain. The vestibular apparatus becomes aware of the head’s position and every movement that occurs.
When sounds reach the hair cells, impulses of the nerve are sent to the brain, giving it a perception of the pitch’s sound. If the endolymph encounters strong movement - caused by loud noise - the hair cells can die. This can lead to partial deafness.
The labyrinth is part of the inner ear. It monitor’s the position of the body and movement. The labyrinth features two sensory tools: the saccule and the utricle detect the head’s position and linear motion.
If you are a human with hearing problems, contact us at Pure Sound Hearing for a complimentary hearing test and consultation with one of our hearing aid providers.