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Middle ear

Learning objectives

This study unit will help you to:

  1. Identify the main features of the middle ear and adjacent auditory tube. 
  2. Master the vascularization, innervation and contents of the middle ear. 
  3. Learn about the three ossicles found in the middle ear, their structure and function.

Watch video

The middle ear consists of an air-filled chamber within the temporal bone known as the tympanic cavity, located between the external and internal parts of the ear. It is sometimes divided into two main parts: the inferior tympanic cavity proper (atrium) and the superior epitympanic recess (attic). The middle ear is bounded laterally by the tympanic membrane and medially by the lateral wall of the internal ear. The roof of the cavity is formed by a thin plate of bone, the tegmen tympani, while the floor is similarly thin, overlying the internal jugular vein.

The tympanic cavity is directly connected to neighbouring anatomical structures and spaces. Anteromedially, it is directly connected with the auditory tube (Eustachian tube) which facilitates equalization of air pressure within the tympanic cavity with ambient pressure. Posteriorly, the tympanic cavity communicates with the mastoid cell of the temporal bone via the mastoid antrum. The result of these direct connections is a continuous mucous membrane between the tympanic cavity, auditory tube, mastoid cells and antrum.

This video tutorial will provide you with an overview of the components of the middle ear.

Take a quiz

Now that you have watched the video about the middle ear, test your knowledge by taking our quiz. 

Do you have more knowledge that needs to be tested? Don't worry, our custom quiz about the ear covers all the ear-related topics:

Browse atlas

Take a closer look at the parts and landmarks of the middle ear and auditory tube in these atlas galleries. 


Key points about the middle ear
Parts Tympanic cavity (proper), epitympanic recess
Walls Tegmental wall (roof)
Jugular wall (floor)
Membranous (lateral) wall (tympanic membrane)
Labyrinthine (medial) wall
Mastoid (posterior) wall
Carotid (anterior) wall
Auditory ossicles Malleus, incus, stapes
Muscles Tensor tympani muscle, stapedius muscle
Arterial supply Anterior tympanic artery (of maxillary artery), deep auricular artery (of maxillary artery), stylomastoid artery (of occipital artery)
Innervation Tympanic plexus (glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX)), nerve to stapedius (facial nerve (CN VII)), nerve to tensor tympani (of mandibular nerve (CN V3)), caroticotympanic nerves
Function Conduction of sound waves to the inner ear

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