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Ear

The ear is situated bilaterally on the human cranium, at the same level as the nose, bordering the face and the head. It is the motherboard for somatic balance and hearing and consists of the outer, middle and inner ear. It is innervated by the vestibulocochlear nerve, number eight of the twelve cranial nerves, as well as smaller branches from other nerves, This mixture of bones, nerves, vessels, membranes, skin and muscles which collectively form the ear is essential for the everyday function of one of the five human senses - hearing

Outer Ear

Recommended video: Outer ear and auditory tube
Overview of the structures of the outer ear and auditory tube.

The outer ear consists of the auricle, which is a cartilaginous structure that is covered with skin and which is lightly vascularized. It consists of the following convexities, concavities and folds (in a clockwise direction):

  • Tragus
  • Intertragic Notch
  • Antitragus
  • Auricular Lobule
  • Auricular Concha

Auricle - ventral view

  • Antihelix
  • Auricular Tubercle
  • Antihelical Crura
  • Scaphoid Fossa
  • Helix
  • Triangular Fossa
  • Helical Crux

Within these structures lies the orifice known as the external acoustic meatus, which is the entrance to the middle and inner ear.

External acoustic meatus - lateral-left view

Middle Ear

The tympanic membrane is the border between the external acoustic meatus of the outer ear and the middle ear. Just behind it sit the three auricular bones known as the: 

  • incus
  • malleus
  • stapes

Incus - ventral view

They articulate upon each other and the malleus balances upon the tympanic membrane, transmitting sound vibration from the outer to the inner ear. The membrane is thin and when looking at it directly the malleus and the articulating incus can be seen. The incus connects the malleus and the stapes, which articulates directly with the fossa ovale or the vestibular window as it is known. This is the doorway to the inner ear.

Tympanic membrane - ventral view

Inner Ear

In the most inner cavity of the ear, runs the facial nerve and vestibulocochlear nerves, cranial nerves VII and VIII respectively. Just below these nervous structures lies the auricular vestibule made up of the semicircular canals, and the cochlea, which consists of:

  • the scala tympani
  • the cochlear duct
  • the scala vestibuli

Cochlea - ventral view

It is here that the fibers of the vestibulocochlear nerve separate, to innervate both the auricular vestibule and the cochlear one individually.

Within the cochlea are tiny hollow canals which are split into three parts, as mentioned above. Within the cochlear duct is an arrangement of hair cells, that vibrate in correlation to sound and transmit the information to the following tract:

  • Hair cells of the cochlear duct in the cochlea of the inner ear
  • Nerve terminals of the cochlear part of the vestibulocochlear nerve (CN VIII)
  • Spiral ganglia
  • Ventral and dorsal cochlear nuclei in the spinal cord
  • Lateral lemniscus
  • Nucleus of the lateral lemniscus
  • Inferior colliculus
  • Medial geniculate body
  • Auditory radiations in the temporal lobe
  • Acoustic area of the cortex - auditory cortex

Medial geniculate body

Summary

The ear is situated bilaterally on the human cranium and consists of three parts: the outer, middle and inner ear portions.

The outer ear consists of the auricle, which is a lightly vascularized, cartilaginous structure covered with skin. It consists of a large collection of convexities, concavities and folds that can be easily seen with the naked eye.

The middle ear starts from the tympanic membrane onwards and contains three important auricular bones: the incus, malleus, and stapes. They articular upon each other, transmitting the vibrations of the tympanic membrane all the way to the inner ear, via the fossa ovale (vestibular window).

The inner ear contains the facial and vestibulocochlear nerves, with the auricular vestibule being situated below those cranial nerves. This vestibule consists of the semicircular canals. The cochlea consists of the scala tympany, the cochlear duct and the scala vestibuli.

Ear - want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

Sign up for your free Kenhub account today and join over 852,397 successful anatomy students.

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more. Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver

Show references

Reference:

  • Frank H. Netter, Atlas of Human Anatomy, 4th Edition, Saunders, Chapter 1, Plates 92-98

Author:

  • Dr. Alexandra Sieroslawska

Illustrators:

  • Auricle - ventral view - Paul Kim
  • External acoustic meatus - lateral-left view - Yousun Koh
  • Incus - ventral view - Paul Kim
  • Tympanic membrane - ventral view - Paul Kim
  • Cochlea - ventral view - Paul Kim
  • Medial geniculate body - Paul Kim
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Outer ear and auditory tube

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