Re: The Aquatic Adaptation of the Human Ear

David Froehlich (
Fri, 6 Oct 1995 11:02:53 -0500

On 4 Oct 1995, JTHURB wrote:

> Curiously, we all have ossicles suspended in the flesh and cartilage
> surrounding the opening to the ear canal. Until now, osteologists hadn't
> a clue as to their function. When these bones are stimulated by repeated
> and prolonged exposure to water they sometimes grow and often intrude so
> far into the opening to the inner ear passage that they cause a
> significant hearing loss. Auditory exostosis is quite rare, and occurs
> almost exclusively among divers; particularly, but not exclusively, to
> those diving in cold waters.
Osteologist have no idea what these ossicles are from?? I beg to differ
with you. These are the remnants of the postdentary bones from the
primitive condition. They do not have a function (at least as far as I
know) they do not have to as they are primitive retentions. I do not know
if auditory exostosis is related to damage but I do know that most kinds
of exostosis are related to damage of the bone and surrounding tissue and
I would hazard a guess that your problem is due to repeated stress on the
eardrum caused by water pressure and that it would occur in any mammal,
not just hominids.

David J. Froehlich Phone: 512-471-6088
Vertebrate Paleontology Laboratory Fax: 512-471-5973
J.J. Pickle Research Campus
The University of Texas, Austin, Texas 78712