The Five Senses and Why They Are Important

The five senses are our link to the world around us. Although many people enjoy full lives with sensory disabilities, any disturbances or loss of our senses can have a profound impact upon us.

Set of Five Human Senses

The Five Senses

Each of our senses uses its own detection system to get information from our surroundings. The information is sent to the brain where it will be processed and combined to create a complete sensory picture of our environment.

  1. Sight: light and colour is detected by cells in the retina at the back of the eye.

  2. Sound: hair cells in the ear move in response to specific frequencies of sound.

  3. Taste: taste buds on the tongue react to salt, sour, bitter, sweet and umami tastes in our food.

  4. Smell: special cells in the nose detect different chemicals in the air that we breathe in. We also detect the flavours in food as air moves from our mouth up into the back of the nasal cavity.

  5. Touch: various receptors in our skin can detect different types of touch, including pressure and vibrations.

Beyond the Five Senses

Although we often talk about the five senses, the reality is that we can sense a lot more than this from our environment. For example, we can tell how hot or cold it is, feel pain, and sense how our body is positioned. Each of these senses has its own system for detecting the environment that must send signals to the right part of the brain. The sense of balance comes from the vestibular organs in the inner ear, which can tell when our body is tilted in different directions. Even though we aren’t as aware of these other senses as we are of the main five senses they still have a significant impact on us.

Why Are Our Senses So Important?

However many senses we have, they can have a significant impact on us. Our senses:

  • Are our connection to the world around us so we need them to perceive our environment and to interact with other people

  • Can help with everyday tasks such as driving, talking to people, or performing activities at work

  • Are essential for our enjoyment of many experiences such as eating a meal or listening to music

  • Are closely connected to our emotions and memories so they can have a very dramatic impact on how we feel

If anything interferes with the function of our senses it can limit our interactions with the world around us or make it harder to perform certain activities. For example, hearing loss can make it harder to follow conversations while balance disorders could prevent you from moving around safely. It’s important to seek help if you have problems with any of your senses as it’s often possible to do something about it. Since many of our senses are detected by organs in the ears, nose and throat, it will often be necessary to see an ENT specialist. We can provide a hearing aid or treatment for issues such as balance disorders that could have a huge impact on your quality of life.