(Almost) Everything You Wanted to Know About the Ear
Patients have different kinds of ear problems at different times of the year, and at different ages. It is important to be able to quickly distinguish between an emergent or urgent situation, and one that can be managed in due time.
The ear is divided into several parts. For this article, we will talk about six parts of the ear:
- the pinna (the visible portion of the external ear), which is the part that holds your glasses up and gets pierced;
- the external ear canal (or external auditory canal – EAC) which is where cerumen (ear wax) is formed and which conveys external sounds inwards;
- the eardrum (or tympanic membrane – TM) which vibrates in response to sound input;
- the middle ear which is the air containing space that holds the 3 ossicles or tiny bones of hearing – the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil) and stapes (stirrup) (the smallest bone in the body)– and which connects to the air-filled mastoid bone that you can palpate behind the ear;
- the inner ear, which is housed in the otic capsule or densest bone in the body (the mandible is the hardest bone in the body) and which contains the cochlea or hearing organ in front and the vestibular sense organs posteriorly, and
- the internal auditory canal (IAC) which transmits the seventh (facial) and eighth (cochleovestibular) cranial nerves to the brain. Sound and balance input are processed in the ear and are then transmitted to the cochlear and vestibular nuclei – where we actually experience hearing and balance.
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