Have You Heard? Echoes From Ancient Caves
June 29, 2015
Recent research indicates new insights into humans' closest extinct relative, the Neanderthal. One of the many ways that Neanderthal anatomy differed from our own came to light in the form of a fossilized ear bone from a young Neanderthal child. Included among a skull, jaw, vertebrae, ribs, and hand phalanges was a very complete left temporal bone with an auditory ossicle inside, including a complete "stapes." This bone, which lies in the middle ear of humans and other mammals, conducts sound vibrations to the inner ear. In Neanderthals, the stapes was decidedly different in its structure than our own, which may mean that they heard sounds differently from humans. This may have contributed to their downfall.
The stapes is the smallest bone in the body.
Certain conditions, such as age, illness and genetics, may contribute to hearing loss. Over several generations, modern life has added a host of ear-damaging elements to the list, including some medications and ever-increasing sources of loud, continuous noise.
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