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Anatomy and Physiology of the Ear

What is the ear?

The ear is the organ of hearing. The parts of the ear include:

External or outer ear

The external ear consists of:

Middle ear (tympanic cavity)

The middle ear consists of:

Inner ear

The inner ear onsists of:

Illustration - Anatomy of the Ear

How do we hear?

Hearing starts with the outer ear. When a sound is made outside the outer ear, the sound waves, or vibrations, travel down the external ear canal and strike the eardrum (tympanic membrane). The eardrum vibrates. The vibrations are then passed to the three tiny bones in the middle ear called the ossicles. The ossicles amplify the sound and send the sound waves to the inner ear and into the fluid-filled hearing organ (cochlea).

Once the sound waves reach the inner ear, they are converted into electrical impulses that the auditory nerve sends to the brain. The brain then translates these electrical impulses into the perception of sound.

Reviewed by: Steven D. Handler, MD, MBE
Date: April 2009

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