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Normal Ear Function
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Normal Ear Function PATIENT INFORMATION

The ear is an amazing creation! The extremely small and delicate structures in our ears provide us with the sense of hearing and balance. In addition, the nerve that moves the face and the nerve that provides taste come through the ear. Commonly, the ear is divided into three parts: the external, middle, and inner ears. The external ear consists of the large outer part known as the pinna and the external ear canal. The external ear collects the sound waves and funnels them to the eardrum. (Diagram A)

The middle ear is a chamber bounded by the eardrum and the inner ear. It contains the three ear bones known as the malleus (hammer), the incus (anvil), and the stapes (stirrup). These bones connect the eardrum to the fluid of the inner ear. The eardrum and the ear bones serve to amplify the sound waves from the ear canal and direct them to the inner ear. The middle ear is lined with a mucous membrane very similar to the lining of our nose and mouth. It is connected with the back of the nose via the Eustachian tube.

The inner ear is a maze of canals encased in bone and filled with fluid. There are two parts to the inner ear, the balance part (the vestibular portion) and the hearing part (the cochlea). These two parts are connected to each other and share a common fluid. The vibration of the fluid in the cochlea moves little nerve endings that look like small hairs. Movement of the hairs causes impulses to be sent through the hearing nerve to the brain, and we hear. 

The vestibular portion of the inner ear consists of three semicircular canals and two other structures called the utricle and saccule. The semicircular canals detect any motion in a rotary direction while the utricle and saccule detect motion in a forward/backward direction and up/down direction.

The content of this site is intended for information purposes only; it is not meant to take the place of seeing a healthcare professional. If you have any concerns regarding your own or someone else's health, we strongly encourage you to consult a physician.

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