The Interactive Ear

A Guide to Human Hearing
View the Inner Ear View the Outer Ear

The Interactive Ear

The ear is the organ which controls hearing and balance, allowing us to understand our surroundings and position ourselves correctly. It is split into three parts: outer, middle and inner. This guide will take you through each part of the ear in turn, answering those essential questions – what are the parts, what do they do, and how?

Pinna
Helix
Antihelix
Concha
Antitragus
Lobe
Cartilage
Temporal Muscle (Temporalis)
Temporal Bone
Semicircular Canals
Ganglia of the Vestibular Nerve
Facial Nerve
Ear Canal (External acoustic meatus)
Mastoid Process
Facial Nerve
Internal Jugular Vein
Styloid Process
Internal Cartoid Artery
Eardrum (Tympanic Membrane)
Auditory Tube (Eustachian Tube)
Outer Ear – Welcome to the Interactive Ear! Hover over the circles to learn how each part of the ear works. This diagram is of the outer ear.
This is the part of the ear that people can see, and funnels sound into your ear canal.
The rim of the pinna.
A curved panel of cartridge. Part of the pinna.
Bowl-shaped part of pinna.
The small, hard bump above your ear lobe. Part of the pinna.
The earlobe contains a large blood supply, helping to keep the ears warm. They are part of the pinna.
Flexible connective tissue. Part of the pinna.
This muscle can be felt in your temples, expanding and contracting when you chew.
This large, flat bone houses your hearing organs, keeping them supported inside your skull.
These interconnected tubes lie at different angles and are responsible for balance.
The vestibular nerve is responsible for transmitting sensory information to the brain.
This nerve passes through from your brain to the rest of your face, and controls facial expressions.
This transfers sound into your ear. Earwax is created here to protect your ears from bacteria.
This bone sits under your jaw and connects muscles from your throat, neck and back.
This nerve passes through from your brain to the rest of your face, and controls facial expressions.
These veins carry blood past the ear and down towards the neck.
This is a small, pointy bone connected to the tongue and larynx.
This artery passes the ear on its way to supply blood to the brain.
The eardrum creates a barrier between the outer and middle ear, and transfers sound vibrations from the air into the middle ear.
This tube connects the middle ear to the nose, and is responsible for equalising pressure between the middle ear and the atmosphere.
Anterior Semicircular Canal (Superior Semicircular Canal)
Posterior
Lateral Semicircular Canal (Horizontal Semicircular Canal)
Semicircular Canals
Ampulla
Utricle
Saccule
Oval Window
Round Window
Vestibular Nerve
Facial Nerve
Cochlear Nerve
Cochlear Duct
Cochlea
Cochear Cupula
Inner Ear – In the inner ear, vibrations are turned into waves in fluid, moving tiny hair cells to create sound signals for your brain to detect.
This contains fluid which brushes against hairs on the canal wall as you move, to detect rotation of the head.
This contains fluid which brushes against hairs on the canal wall as you move, to determine motion and balance.
This contains fluid which brushes against hairs on the canal wall as you move, to detect vertical movement.
These interconnected tubes lie at different angles and are responsible for balance. They connect to the ampulla and the utricle.
The Ampulla has a mound of small hairs which detect signals from the semicircular canals, and alter electrical patterns to determine balance and movement.
This, along with the saccule, is sensitive to movement, and is part of the group of organs responsible for balance.
This is a bed of sensory cells which transmit information to the brain about head movements, allowing you to maintain balance.
This opening leads from the middle ear, and transmits vibrations from the tympanic membrane via the stapes.
This opening to the middle ear receives sound vibration from the stapes and moves the fluid in the cochlea, which in turn stimulates the small hair cells.
This major nerve transmits sensory information from the saccule, utricle and semicircular canals about gravity and movement.
The facial nerve passes intimately close to the inner ear as it passes from the brain to the rest of the face.
This is a major part of the ear, as it is the major nerve that conducts sound information from the cochlea to the brain.
This duct is filled with endolymph, the fluid that the ear uses to create waves of sound vibration.
The cochlea is the part of the inner ear responsible for hearing. Sound vibrations have to be converted into fluid vibrations for the cochlea to interpret them.
This is the top of the cochlea, which is slightly cone-shaped.
Perilymph
Scala Vestibuli
Vestibular Membrane
Stria Vascules
Cochlear Duct
Endolymph
Spiral Ligament
Organ of Corti
Scala Tympani
The Cochlea This is a cross-section of the cochlea, the part of your inner ear that controls hearing.
This fluid can be found in the scala tympani and the scala vestibuli, and transmits vibration waves to the cochlear duct.
This compartment is filled with perilymph fluid, and conducts sound vibrations to the cochlear duct. It has the same function as the scala tympani.
This is the membrane which separates the three chambers from each other within the cochlea.
This part of the spiral ligament produces endolymph for the cochlear duct.
This duct is filled with endolymph fluid, and houses the organ of Corti.
This is fluid for vibration waves to pass through, stimulating the organ of Corti's receptor cells.
This is a thickened part of the cochlear duct's protective outer membrane.
This has over 20,000 nerve receptors, each of which has a tiny hair cell that detects sound waves and translates them into signals for the brain.
This compartment is filled with perilymph fluid, and conducts sound vibrations to the cochlear duct. It has the same function as the scala vestibuli.
Tensor Tympani Muscle
Auditory Tube (Eustachian Tube)
Carotid Canal
Malleus
Chorda Tympani
Limbus
Umbo
Eardrum (Tympanic Membrane)
Mastoid Cells
Incus
Facial Nerve
Middle Ear – The middle ear converts sound from the air into vibrations that can be sent through fluid to the cochlea, in the inner ear.
This muscle's main job is to soften the sounds inside your head, like the sound of chewing or speaking. You can hear them vibrating when you yawn!
This tube connects the middle ear to the nose, and is responsible for equalising pressure between the middle ear and the atmosphere.
This is the passageway for the internal carotid artery, which passes through the ear on its way to the brain.
Also known as the "hammer", the malleus bone transmits sound from the eardrum to the incus. It is part of the auditory ossicles.
This nerve runs through the middle ear while carrying taste information from the tongue to the brain.
This is the rim of the eardrum.
The umbro is the central part of the eardrum. It is the area that is most tightly connected to the cavity surrounding the auditory ossicles, and so is slightly curved inwards.
The eardrum transmits sound vibrations to the auditory ossicles - that's the malleus, the incus and the stapes.
The mastoid process, which is the bone underneath our jaw, contains a number of harmless air pockets.
Also known as the "anvil", the incus bone transmits sound from the malleus to the stapes. It is part of the auditory ossicles.
The facial nerve exits the skull close to this area, while the chorda tympani branches off through the middle ear.

The Interactive Ear
Whole Ear Model

The Interactive Ear
Inner Ear Model

The Interactive Ear
Middle Ear Model