The ear and the Vagus Nerve

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Path of the Vagus Nerve

The ear is connected to the 10th pair of cranial nerves. Commonly referred to as the Vagus Nerve, it is actually a bundle of nerves and is the longest of the cranial nerves.

From the Latin, for “the wanderer,” this bundle of nerves travels the from the brainstem to almost every major organ in the body. One of the branches of the vagus nerve, called the auricular branch innervates the lower part of the external ear canal and the eardrum. This is the only external point of emergence of this nerve. This means, the eardrum acts like an antenna, revieving messages from external stimuli, and relaying the messages, not only to the brain but almost every major organ.

The Vagus nerve stimulates the bronchi, esophagus, coronary arteries and the stomach, small intestine, colon, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, suprarenal glands, gallbladder, sacral and pelvic plexus. If you are familiar with the chakra system, you can see now why this nerve is associated with caduceus and healing. The ear is linked to both hemispheres of the brain, and every major organ. It is the first sensory organ to develop in utero. For such a tiny little flap of skin that most of us subjugate to the eye, the ear certainly deserves at least a supporting role in our awareness.

Imagine how you can change your life, by nourishing the body and mind with healing sounds. As you go about your day, consider what sounds you find nourishing and which sounds feel depleting. Some experts recommend keeping a sound journal, where we track how we feel in relationship to various sounds. In this way, we can create a sonic diet that creates a soundscape tailored to the needs of our day. We can create playlists with nourishing music to stimulate us in the morning. We can create playlists of sounds which help us concentrate, sleep better, workout longer, harder, faster, we can create playlists that relax us. No matter the mood you are searching for, a well-crafted playlist can certainly make a difference in how we feel.

More importantly, than its direct link to each major organ, the vagus nerve also controls part of the autonomic nervous system. We have talked previously about all the rhythms that are innately part of the body, Our respiration, cardiac and circadian rhythms are each controlled by the autonomic nervous system. This means, the vagus nerve, which is connected directly to the ear, brain and every vital organ also controls our biological rhythms. It is no wonder Tomatis was an advocated for carving out intentional sound diets that nourish the brain and body.

Finally, when we consider the emotional component of sound, the way music is able to move us emotionally, we have the final component for understanding how sound plays a vital role in our health and wellbeing.

Now that you know the link between the ear and the vagus nerve and you understand the vagus nerve’s role in supplying energy to our vital organs, biological rhythms and 80% of our brains energy. Does this make you want to pay more attention to what you are putting into your ears?

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