This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Russian Wikipedia. (May 2012)
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The visible part is called the pinna, also known as the auricle. It is composed of a thin plate of yellow elastic cartilage, covered with integument, and connected to the surrounding parts by ligaments and muscles; and to the commencement of the external acoustic meatus by fibrous tissue. Many mammals can move the pinna (with the auriculares muscles) in order to focus their hearing in a certain direction in much the same way that they can turn their eyes. Most humans, unlike most other mammals, do not have this ability.
From the pinna the sound pressurewaves move into the ear canal, also known as the external acoustic meatus a simple tube running through the middle ear. This tube leads inward from the bottom of the auricula and conducts the vibrations to the tympanic cavity and amplifies frequencies in the range 3 kHz to 12 kHz.
One consequence of the configuration of the outer ear is selectively to boost the sound pressure 30- to 100-fold for frequencies around 3 kHz. This amplification makes humans most sensitive to frequencies in this range - and also explains why they are particularly prone to acoustical injury and hearing loss near this frequency. Most human speech sounds are also distributed in the bandwidth around 3 kHz.
^Purves, Dale, George J. Augustine, David Fitzpatrick, William C. Hall, Anthony-Samuel LaMantia, James O. McNamara, and Leonard E. White (2008). "Chapter 13". Neuroscience. 4th ed. Sinauer Associates. p. 317. ISBN978-0-87893-697-7.