Why do you want to cough when you dig your ears?

Digging your ears is a wonderful treat for many people, but when you dig your ears, some people will cough involuntarily. What is going on?

We all know about our nervous systems. It connects the most authoritative part of our body i.e the brain that controls other tissues and organs to perform specific tasks.

Although these nerve cells responsible for communication seem to be almost the same, they also have different areas of responsibility.

In our body, there are 12-pairs of nerves emanating from the brain. They are collectively called cranial nerves. What makes us a cough, when we dig our ears is the tenth pair of nerves, the Vagus nerve.

The vagus nerve is the longest and most widely distributed nerve in the cranial nerve. It is a mixed nerve that includes somatosensory fibers, visceral sensory fibers, somatic motor fibers, and visceral motor fibers, and is therefore responsible for the transmission of a variety of information.

The vagus nerve is widely distributed in various organs and tissues of the body due to its diverse information transmission skills and participates in the respiratory and digestive system, most organs and the heart’s sensory, motor and gland secretion. And with the sympathetic nerves to adjust the body’s heart rate, respiratory, glandular secretion and blood flow distribution of important organs such as liver and adrenal gland.

Among them, the throat is one of the important jurisdictions of the vagus nerve.


 vagus nerve distribution  

Image source: TeachMeAnatomy

As some foreign substances entering and leaving the body from the mouth, the throat has always been monitoring them. There are many vagus nerves distributed on our throat mucosa, so that when the foreign body invades, they can notify the brain in time and issue a coughing instruction to cough the foreign body out of the body.

As the most widely distributed nerve in the body, the vagus nerve will also have the wrong way. On this information transmission line, there are some small branches that accidentally go a little further and extend to the external auditory canal, especially under the skin of the posterior wall of the external auditory canal.

Therefore, when we dig the ear, the vagus nerve branch under the external auditory canal will send a signal of “foreign body invasion” to the brain. In revert, the brain responds and stimulates the throat mucosa immediately. Which in return issued an instruction to us to cough! Cough out the foreign body” and we coughed up involuntarily.

Although this small mistake of the Vagus nerve doesn’t down the importance of it in the body. Without the control of the vagus nerve our important organs such as the heart not going to work and at last we die.

Moreover, if the vagus nerve strikes and the lesions, it may also induce cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure, myocardial infarction, arrhythmia, syncope, and coronary heart disease.

Seeing that it has such a big role, dig a cough caused by the ear, everyone still accepts it, perhaps this is a silent way of the Vagus nerve to remind us of its existence.

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