Special Senses

All human awareness and knowledge is due to detection interpretation of stimuli. Some of the stimuli is received by sensory receptors present in the body. Other stimuli is received by highly complex receptor organs which are referred to as the special senses.


The special senses are the senses that have specialized organs devoted to them.

Special senses include the following:

  • Hearing (the ear)
  • Sight/Vision (the eye)
  • Smell (the nose)
  • Taste (the tongue)

The special senses have specialized sensory receptors or nerve endings. These nerve endings are present in the ears, eyes, nose and mouth. Nerve impulses from these specialized nerve endings travel to specific areas of the brain’s cerebral cortex where they are processed to create perception at the conscious level as sight, sound, smell, taste, and balance. Apart from hearing, the ear also plays a role in maintaining balance of the body. Special senses enable the body to detect changes in the environment and provide information necessary for maintaining homeostasis.

Topics in this section 

  • Hearing and the ear
    • Structure
    • Physiology of hearing
  • Balance and the ear
    • Physiology of balance
  • Sight and the eye
    • Structure
    • Physiology of sight
    • Extraocular muscles of the eye
    • Accessory organs of the eye
  • Sense of smell
    • Physiology of smell
  • Sense of taste
    • Physiology of taste
  • Diseases of the ear
    • External otitis
    • Acute otitis media
    • Serous otitis media
    • Chronic otitis media
    • Otosclerosis
    • Presbycusis
    • Meniere’s disease
    • Labyrinthitis
    • Motion sickness
    • Deafness
  • Diseases of the eye
    • Inflammation
    • Glaucoma
    • Strabismus (squint, cross-eye)
    • Cataract
    • Retinopathies
    • Retinal detachment
    • Retinitis pigmentosa
    • Keratomalacia
    • Tumors
    • Disorders of the lacrimal apparatus
  • Refractive errors of the eye