What Makes Verbal Human Communication Possible

Curious about how your ears, mouth, and throat work together to produce speech? Let’s take a closer look. Verbal communication would be impossible without the specific parts of the body responsible for sending and receiving information through sound.

A diagram of the anatomy of the human ear


The Ear

The ear consists of three distinct areas: outer, middle, and inner. Each section performs unique functions to convey signals to the brain.


The Outer Ear

  • The pinna is the outside part of the ear. Its shape helps you perceive sounds.
  • The external auditory canal connects the pinna to the middle ear.
  • The tympanic membrane, also called the eardrum, vibrates in response to sound waves. It divides the outer ear from the middle ear.


The Middle Ear

  • The ossicles, the smallest bones in the human body that transmit vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear, are called the malleus, incus, and stapes.
  • The eustachian tubes connect the middle ear to the throat. They help to equalize pressure between the middle ear and the surrounding air. Equal pressure is necessary for the proper transfer of sound waves. The eustachian tubes are lined with mucous membrane, just like the inside of the nose and throat. This is why they sometimes become itchy and inflamed during allergy season.


The Inner Ear

  • The cochlea contains tiny hair cells, which are the receptors for hearing
  • The vestibule contains the receptors for balance
  • Semicircular canals also assist with balance and equilibrium

A diagram of the human mouth and throat

The Mouth

Also known as the oral cavity, the mouth houses the tongue, teeth, and lips, which work together to produce speech.

  • The position and movement of the jaw influences word enunciation.
  • The tongue is a strong muscle covered in mucosa and tastebuds. It is very mobile and allows for fluid speech.
  • The lips are tactile sensory organs that can help with food intake as well as speech production.


The Throat

The throat is a muscular tube that acts as the passageway for air, food, and liquid. It also contains the organs necessary for speech.

  • The larynx, or voice box, is a cylindrical formation of cartilage, muscle, and soft tissue that includes the upper opening of the windpipe (trachea). It is where the vocal cords are located.
  • The epiglottis is a flap of soft tissue located just above the vocal cords. It folds down over the cords to prevent food and other irritants from entering the lungs.
  • Tonsils and adenoids are made up of lymph tissue and located at the back of the nose and near the sides of the mouth. They act as a filtration system for the throat and oral cavity and protect against infection.

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