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ON THE FACULTIES OF THE EAR.
There is nothing in nature that arouses our attention, or impresses our feelings more quickly, than a sound; whether it be the tone of sorrow—the note of joy—the voices of a multitude-the roar of the winds or the waters—or the soft inflections of the breeze-we are equally awakened to that sense of terror, pleasure, or pain, which sounds create in us.
The organ through which these sensations pass is allowed to be the most curiously wrought of any part of the human body; and, from the description which anatomists give of it, we may infer that the ear is an instrument of the pulsatile order, and in action similar to that of a drum. By some writers, the tympanum* is described as a strained membrane in the chamber of the ear; not the sole instrument upon which the sounds are formed, but simply a guard to prevent extraneous bodies entering the
* It has been ingeniously supposed that the small bone termed the mallet, which falls upon the tympanum, may be compared to the dampers on the piano-forte, on the action of which we probably derive our ideas of loud and soft, as this machinery may have effect in extinguishing loud sounds and keeping up weak ones.
labyrinth of the ear. This certainly may be one of its uses—but that it vibrates and emits a sound, called a singing in the ears, cannot be doubted; and as a proof that it partakes of the action of a drum, it is not fitted to receive two loud sounds in immediate succession—but a weak one, either before or after a strong one, it will receive and transmit. The effect of sound upon the ear is somewhat similar to that of light upon the eye ;—the knowledge we obtain of surrounding bodies depends upon the practice and use we make of these organs, and it may be justly said that we learn both to see and hear.
Infants, apparently, have no knowledge of external objects, except those which emit or reflect the strongest lights; as the window, the candle or the moon—all of which they apprehend to be within their reach, and spread out their hands to touch. It is, then, only by slow degrees that we learn to see and hear, although our faculties are as perfect at first as in after-life. It has been remarked of those persons born blind and brought to sight, that all have shown a total ignorance of space or distance. Cheseldine the anatomist* tells us, that the boy on whom he operated, on viewing the prospect, put out his hands to touch the church-steeples which he saw with delight in the distant horizon.
Those are of the quickest sight who are in the constant habit of using their eyes, and there is a
* Born at Borough-Hill, Leicestershire.