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Recommended video: Labyrinth [16:40]
Overview of the bony and membranous structures of the labyrinth.

The cochlea is a component of the labyrinth of the internal ear that is responsible for hearing. It is a hollow, spirally coiled chamber inside the temporal bone that makes 2.75 turns around its axis, which is called the modiolus.

The cavity of the cochlea (cochlear canal) houses a triangular membranous duct, called the cochlear duct. The cochlear duct follows the entire length of the cochlear canal, but fills only 1/3 of its width. Thus, on a cross section, the cochlear canal cavity consists of 3 chambers:

  • Scala vestibuli: located superior to the cochlear duct, filled with perilymph.
  • Scala media: the cochlear duct itself, filled with endolymph.
  • Scala tympani: found inferior to the cochlear duct, filled with perilymph.

The scala media contains the spiral organ (of Corti), the receptor organ for hearing that produces nerve impulses in response to auditory stimuli, and transmits them via the auditory pathway to the brain.

Terminology English: Cochlea
Latin: Cochlea
Definition and function Component of the labyrinth of the internal ear that is responsible for hearing.
Location Petrous part of temporal bone 
Structure Chambers: Scala vestibuli, cochlear duct (scala media), scala tympani

Learn more about the structures and function of the internal ear with this study unit:

Cochlea: want to learn more about it?

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