Ear Anatomy

Ear Anatomy

Author: Aaron Mullally

This lesson will give an overview of the anatomy of the human ear.

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Gross Anatomy of the Ear

Human Ear image, Public Domain: http://bit.ly/VyeXJi; Cochlea image, Creative Commons: http://bit.ly/QBF54A; Cochlea crossection image, Creative Commons: http://bit.ly/SQylfm; Vestibular System image, Public Domain: http://bit.ly/RPidNA; Bigolith image, Public Domain: http://bit.ly/Q8DAei

  • Outer Ear

    Anatomically the outer part of the ear that traps and funnels compressed air inward toward the middle ear. Anatomic structures included are the auricle/pinna, auditory canal.

  • Middle Ear

    The middle portion of the ear that is primarily designed to mechanically amplify the sound waves that enter the ear. Anatomic structures included are the tympanic membrane (ear drum), auditory ossicles (malleus, incus, stapes), and the eustachian tube.

  • Inner Ear

    The inner portion of the ear deeply embedded within the temporal bone; contains the organs of hearing and balance/equilibrium. Organs within the inner ear are the cochlea, the vestibular system, organ of Corti, tectorial membrane, hair cells (stereocilia), round window, otolith organs, auditory nerve, and the semicircular canals.

  • Cochlea

    The organ of hearing found within the inner ear; contains the sensory receptors for hearing (hair cells/stereocilia), organ of Corti, tectoral membrane, round window and the auditory nerve.

  • Tympanic Membrane

    A thin, highly innervated tissue at the end of the auditory canal that is attached to the auditory ossicles. When sound waves strike the tympanic membrane it vibrates, which causes the auditory ossicles to shift and press against the cochlea. Commonly referred to as the "ear drum."

  • Organ of Corti

    A highly specialized organ found within the cochlea that contains the hair cells/stereocilia and their supporting structures (tectoral membrane, basilar membrane).

  • Hair Cells

    The actual receptors for hearing within the cochlea; the hair cells bend due to mechanical fluid vibrations within the cochlea. The bending of the hair cells causes them to depolarize and generate action potentials. The hair cells are also called stereocilia.

  • Tectorial Membrane

    One of two gel membranes located within the cochlea of the ear and is part of the organ of Corti. The two gel membranes contribute to the mechanical process of hearing.

  • Semicircular Canals

    A system of canals in the vestibular system of the inner ear that provide feeback about body position.

  • Vestibular Apparatus

    A system within the inner ear that provides us with feedback about our body position and balance; consists of the semicircular canals and the otolith organs.

  • Auditory Nerve

    The nerve that projects auditory information detected by the hair cells in the cochlea to the primary auditory cortex of the temporal lobe.

  • Round Window

    A structure in the cochlea that acts to dampen the mechanical fluid vibrations within the cochlea to prevent damage to the hair cells.

  • Auditory Canal

    Otherwise known as the ear canal and a part of the outer ear; the auditory canal guides sound waves toward the tympanic membrane.

  • Otolith Organs

    The saccule and utricle, each with an otolith (hard bits of calcium carbonate).

  • Decibel

    A unit of measurement which indicates the loudness of a sound.