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By. Wiwid
Referensi : Keith L Moore et al, 2012, Clinical Oriented of Anatomy 6th
edition, Lippincot and Walkin.

The ear consists of external, middle, and internal parts. The

tympanic membrane separates the external ear from the middle ear.
The pharyngotympanic tube joins the middle ear to the nasopharynx.
The external ear is composed of the shell-like auricle (pinna), which
collects sound, and the external acoustic meatus (canal), which
conducts sound to the tympanic membrane. The arterial supply to the
auricle is derived mainly from the posterior auricular and superficial

temporal arteries, The main nerves to the skin of the auricle are the
great auricular and auriculotemporal nerves. The auriculotemporal
nerve, a branch of CN V3, supplies the skin of the auricle anterior to the
external acoustic meatus. Minor contributions of embryological
significance are made to the skin of the concha and its eminence by
the vagus and facial nerves. The external acoustic meatus is a canal
that leads inward through the tympanic part of the temporal bone from
the auricle to the tympanic membrane, a distance of 2-3 cm in adults.
The auricle has several depressions and elevations. The concha is
the deepest depression. The elevated margin of the auricle is the helix.
The other depressions and elevations are identified in. The non-
cartilaginous lobule (earlobe) consists of fibrous tissue, fat, and blood
vessels. It is easily pierced for taking small blood samples and inserting
earrings. The tragus (G. tragos, goat; alluding to the hairs that tend to
grow from this formation, like a goat's beard) is a tongue-like projection
overlapping the opening of the external acoustic meatus.
The arterial supply to the auricle is derived mainly from the
posterior auricular and superficial temporal arteries. The main nerves
to the skin of the auricle are the great auricular and auriculotemporal
nerves. The great auricular nerve supplies the cranial (medial) surface
(commonly called the back of the ear and the posterior part (helix,
antihelix, and lobule) of the lateral surface front. The auriculotemporal
nerve, a branch of CN V3, supplies the skin of the auricle anterior to
the external acoustic meatus. Minor contributions of embryological
significance are made to the skin of the concha and its eminence by
the vagus and facial nerves. The lymphatic drainage of the auricle is as
follows: the lateral surface of the superior half of the auricle drains to
the superficial parotid lymph nodes; the cranial surface of the superior
half of the auricle drains to the mastoid nodes and deep cervical lymph
nodes; and the remainder of the auricle, including the lobule, drains
into the superficial cervical lymph nodes.
The ceruminous and sebaceous glands in the subcutaneous tissue
of the cartilaginous part of the meatus produce cerumen (earwax). The
external surface of the tympanic membrane is supplied mainly by the
auriculotemporal nerve a branch of CN V3. Some innervation is supplied
by a small auricular branch of the vagus (CN X). The internal surface of
the tympanic membrane is supplied by the glossopharyngeal nerve (CN
The tympanic membrane, approximately 1 cm in diameter, is a
thin, oval semitransparent membrane at the medial end of the external

acoustic meatus. It forms a partition between the meatus and the

tympanic cavity of the middle ear. The tympanic membrane is covered
with thin skin externally and mucous membrane of the middle ear
internally. Viewed through an otoscope, the tympanic membrane has a
concavity toward the external acoustic meatus with a shallow, cone-like
central depression, the peak of which is the umbo. The central axis of
the tympanic membrane passes perpendicularly through the umbo like
the handle of an umbrella, running anteriorly and inferiorly as it runs
laterally. Thus the tympanic membrane is oriented like a mini radar or
satellite dish positioned to receive signals coming from the ground in
front and to the side of the head.
Superior to the lateral process of the malleus (one of the small ear
bones, or auditory ossicles, of the middle ear), the membrane is thin
and is called the flaccid part (L. pars flaccida). It lacks the radial and
circular fibers present in the remainder of the membrane, called the
tense part (L. pars tensa). The flaccid part forms the lateral wall of the
superior recess of the tympanic cavity.
The tympanic membrane moves in response to air vibrations that
pass to it through the external acoustic meatus. Movements of the
membrane are transmitted by the auditory ossicles through the middle
ear to the internal ear. The external surface of the tympanic membrane
is supplied mainly by the auriculotemporal nerve, a branch of CN V3.
Some innervation is supplied by a small auricular branch of the vagus
(CN X). The internal surface of the tympanic membrane is supplied by
the glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX).

Otoscopic Examination
The tympanic membrane is normally translucent and pearly gray.
The handle of the malleus is usually visible near the center of the
membrane (the umbo). From the inferior end of the handle, a bright cone
of light is reflected from the otoscope's illuminator. This light reflex is
visible radiating anteroinferiorly in the healthy ear.

Middle Ears
The cavity of the middle ear or tympanic cavity is the narrow air-filled
chamber in the petrous part of the temporal bone. The cavity has two
parts: the tympanic cavity proper, the space directly internal to the
tympanic membrane, and the epitympanic recess, the space superior to
the membrane. The tympanic cavity is connected anteromedially with the
nasopharynx by the pharyngotympanic tube and posterosuperiorly with
the mastoid cells through the mastoid antrum. The tympanic cavity is
lined with mucous membrane that is continuous with the lining of the
pharyngotympanic tube, mastoid cells, and mastoid antrum. The contents
of the middle ear are the:
Auditory ossicles (malleus, incus, and stapes).
Stapedius and tensor tympani muscles.
Chorda tympani nerve, a branch of CN VII.
Tympanic plexus of nerves.

Walls of the Tympanic Cavity:

1. The tegmental wall (tegmental roof) is formed by a thin plate of
bone, the tegmen tympani, which separates the tympanic cavity
from the dura mater on the floor of the middle cranial fossa.
2. The jugular wall (floor) is formed by a layer of bone that
separates the tympanic cavity from the superior bulb of the internal
jugular vein.
3. The membranous wall (lateral wall) is formed almost entirely by
the peaked convexity of the tympanic membrane; superiorly it is
formed by the lateral bony wall of the epitympanic recess. The
handle of the malleus is attached to the tympanic membrane, and
its head extends into the epitympanic recess.
4. The labyrinthine wall (medial wall) separates the tympanic
cavity from the internal ear. It also features the promontory of the
labyrinthine wall, formed by the initial part (basal turn) of the
cochlea, and the oval and round windows, which, in a dry cranium,
communicate with the inner ear.
5. The anterior carotid wall separates the tympanic cavity from the
carotid canal; superiorly, it has the opening of the
pharyngotympanic tube and the canal for the tensor tympani.
6. The mastoid wall (posterior wall) features an opening in its
superior part, the aditus (L. access) to the mastoid antrum,
connecting the tympanic cavity to the mastoid cells; the canal for
the facial nerve descends between the posterior wall and the
antrum, medial to the aditus.
The mastoid antrum is a cavity in the mastoid process of the temporal
bone. The antrum (L. from G., cave), like the tympanic cavity, is separated
from the middle cranial fossa by a thin plate of the temporal bone, called
the tegmen tympani. This structure forms the tegmental wall (roof) for the
ear cavities and is also part of the floor of the lateral part of the middle
cranial fossa. The antrum is the common cavity into which the mastoid
cells open. The antrum and mastoid cells are lined by mucous membrane
that is continuous with the lining of the middle ear. Anteroinferiorly, the
antrum is related to the canal for the facial nerve.

Pharyngotympanic Tube
The pharyngotympanic tube connects the tympanic cavity to the
nasopharynx, where it opens posterior to the inferior nasal meatus. The
function of the pharyngotympanic tube is to equalize pressure in the
middle ear with the atmospheric pressure, thereby allowing free
movement of the tympanic membrane. By allowing air to enter and
leave the tympanic cavity, this tube balances the pressure on both
sides of the membrane. The arteries of the pharyngotympanic tube are
derived from the ascending pharyngeal artery, a branch of the external
carotid artery, and the middle meningeal artery and artery of the
pterygoid canal, branches of the maxillary artery. The nerves of the
pharyngotympanic tube arise from the tympanic plexus, which is
formed by fibers of the glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX). Anteriorly, the
tube also receives fibers from the pterygopalatine ganglion
Auditory Ossicles
The auditory ossicles form a mobile chain of small bones across the
tympanic cavity from the tympanic membrane to the oval window (L.
fenestra vestibuli), an oval opening on the labyrinthine wall of the
tympanic cavity leading to the vestibule of the bony labyrinth. Its
consist : Maleus, incus, stapes
1. Malleus
The malleus (L. a hammer) attaches to the tympanic membrane. The rounded superior head
of the malleus lies in the epitympanic recess. The neck of the malleus lies against the flaccid
part of the tympanic membrane, and the handle of the malleus is embedded in the tympanic
membrane, with its tip at the umbo; thus the malleus moves with the membrane. The head of
the malleus articulates with the incus; the tendon of the tensor tympani inserts into its handle
near the neck. The chorda tympani nerve crosses the medial surface of the neck of the
malleus. The malleus functions as a lever, with the longer of its two processes and its handle
attached to the tympanic membrane.
2. Incus
The incus (L. an anvil) is located between the malleus and the stapes and articulates with
them. It has a body and two limbs. Its large body lies in the epitympanic recess, where it
articulates with the head of the malleus. The long limb lies parallel to the handle of the
malleus, and its interior end articulates with the stapes by way of the lenticular process, a
medially directed projection. The short limb is connected by a ligament to the posterior wall
of the tympanic cavity.
3. Stapes
The stapes (L. a stirrup) is the smallest ossicle. It has a head, two limbs (crura), and a base. Its
head, directed laterally, articulates with the incus. The base (footplate) of the stapes fits into
the oval window on the medial wall of the tympanic cavity. The oval base is attached to the
margins of the oval window. The base is considerably smaller than the tympanic membrane;
as a result, the vibratory force of the stapes is increased approximately 10 times over that of
the tympanic membrane. Consequently, the auditory ossicles increase the force but decrease
the amplitude of the vibrations transmitted from the tympanic membrane.
Muscles Associated with the Auditory Ossicles
Two muscles dampen or resist movements of the auditory ossicles; one also dampens
movements (vibration) of the tympanic membrane. The tensor tympani is a short muscle that
arises from the superior surface of the cartilaginous part of the pharyngotympanic tube, the
greater wing of the sphenoid, and the petrous part of the temporal bone. The muscle inserts
into the handle of the malleus. The tensor tympani pulls the handle medially, tensing the
tympanic membrane and reducing the amplitude of its oscillations. This action tends to
prevent damage to the internal ear when one is exposed to loud sounds. The tensor tympani is
supplied by the mandibular nerve (CN V3).
The stapedius is a tiny muscle inside the pyramidal eminence (pyramid), a hollow, cone-
shaped prominence on the posterior wall of the tympanic cavity. Its tendon enters the
tympanic cavity by emerging from a pinpoint foramen in the apex of the eminence and inserts
on the neck of the stapes. The stapedius pulls the stapes posteriorly and tilts its base in the
oval window, thereby tightening the anular ligament and reducing the oscillatory range. It
also prevents excessive movement of the stapes. The nerve to the stapedius arises from the
facial nerve (CN VII).

Internal Ear
The internal ear contains the vestibulocochlear organ concerned
with the reception of sound and the maintenance of balance. Buried in
the petrous part of the temporal bone the internal ear consists of the
sacs and ducts of the membranous labyrinth. The membranous
labyrinth, containing endolymph, is suspended within the perilymph-
filled bony labyrinth, either by delicate filaments similar to the
filaments of arachnoid mater that traverse the subarachnoid space or
by the substantial spiral ligament. It does not float. These fluids are
involved in stimulating the end organs for balance and hearing,

Cochlea Structure
Hearing Nerve Pathway

Physiology Of Hearing
(Saladin Physiology)

Saladin et al, 2003, Anatomy and Physiology 3rd edition, McGrowHill


Hearing is a response to vibrating air molecules and equilibrium is the

sense of motion and balance. These senses reside in the inner ear, a maze
of fluid-filled passages and sensory cells. This section explains how the
fluid is set in motion and how the sensory cells convert this motion into an
informative pattern of action potentials.
Pitch is our sense of whether a sound is high (treble) or low
(bass). It is determined by the frequency at which the sound source,
eardrum, and other parts of the ear vibrate. One movement of a vibrating
object back and forth is called a cycle, and the number of cycles per
second (cps or hertz, Hz) is called frequency. The lowest note on a piano,
for example, is 27.5 Hz, middle C is 261 Hz, and the highest note is 4,176
Hz. The most sensitive human ears can hear frequencies from 20 to
20,000 Hz. The infrasonic frequencies below 20 Hz are not detected by the
ear, but we sense them through vibrations of the skull and skin, and they
play a significant role in our appreciation of music. The inaudible
vibrations above 20,000 Hz are ultrasonic. Human ears are most sensitive
to frequencies ranging from 1,500 to 4,000 Hz. In this range, we can hear
sounds of relatively low energy (volume), whereas sounds above or below
this range must be louder to be audible (fig. 16.8). Normal speech falls
within this frequency range. Most of the hearing loss suffered with age is
in the range of 250 to 2,050 Hz.
The auditory ossicles provide no amplification; vibrations of the
stapes against the inner ear normally have the same amplitude as
vibrations of the eardrum against the malleus. Why have auditory
ossicles, then? There are two answers to this. One is that the eardrum,
which moves in air, vibrates easily, whereas the stapes footplate must
vibrate against the fluid of the inner ear. This fluid puts up a much greater
resistance to motion than air does. If airborne sound waves struck the
footplate directly, they would not have enough energy to overcome this
resistance and move the stapes. The eardrum, however, has 18 times the
area of the oval window. By concentrating the energy of the vibrating
eardrum on an area 1/18 that size, the ossicles create a greater force per
unit area at the oval window and overcome the resistance of the
endolymph. The ossicles and their muscles also have a protective
function. In response to a loud noise, the tensor tympani pulls the
eardrum inward and tenses it, while the stapedius reduces mobility of the
This tympanic reflex muffles the transfer of vibrations from the
eardrum to the oval window. The reflex probably evolved in part for
protection from loud but slowly building noises such as thunder. It has a
latency of about 40 msec, which is not quick enough to protect the inner
ear from sudden noises such as gunshots. The tympanic reflex also does
not adequately protect the ears from sustained loud noises such as
factory noise or loud music. Such noises can irreversibly damage the hair
cells of the inner ear by fracturing their stereocilia. It is therefore
imperative to wear ear protection when using firearms or working in noisy
environments. The middle-ear muscles also help to coordinate speech
with hearing. Without them, the sound of your own speech would be so
loud it could damage your inner ear, and it would drown out soft or high-
pitched sounds from other sources. Just as you are about to speak,
however, the brain signals these muscles to contract. This dampens the
sense of hearing in phase with the inflections of your own voice and
makes it possible to hear other people while you are speaking.
Stimulation of Cochlear Hair Cells
To produce a sensation of sound, vibration of the auditory ossicles
leads to vibration of the basilar membrane on which the hair cells rest. A
simple mechanical model of the ear makes it easy to see how this
happens. The stapes pushes on the perilymph of the scala vestibuli; the
perilymph pushes the vestibular membrane down; the vestibular
membrane pushes on the endolymph of the cochlear duct; and the
endolymph pushes the basilar membrane down. (The vestibular
membrane is omitted from the diagram for simplicity; it has no significant
effect on the mechanics of the cochlea.)
The basilar membrane puts pressure on the perilymph of the scala
tympani below it, and the secondary tympanic membrane bulges outward
to relieve this pressure. In short, as the stapes goes in-out-in, the
secondary tympanic membrane goes out-in-out, and the basilar
membrane goes down-up-down. It is not difficult to see how this happens
the only thing hard to imagine is that it can happen as often as 20,000
times per second! The vestibular membrane separates the perilymph of
the scala vestibuli from the endolymph of the cochlear duct. In order for
the hair cells to function properly, the tips of their stereocilia must be
bathed in endolymph.
Endolymph has an exceptionally high K_ concentration, which creates
a strong electrochemical gradient from the tip to the base of a hair cell.
This gradient provides the potential energy that ultimately enables a hair
cell to work. The tectorial membrane is especially important in cochlear
mechanics. Remember that the stereocilia of the outer hair cells have
their tips embedded in it, and those of the inner hair cells come very close
to it. The tectorial membrane is anchored to the modiolus, which holds it
relatively still as the basilar membrane and hair cells vibrate up and down.
Movement of the basilar membrane thus bends the hair cell stereocilia
back and forth. At the tip of each stereocilium of the inner hair cells is a
single transmembrane protein that functions as a mechanically gated ion
channel. A fine, stretchy protein filament called a tip link extends like a
spring from the ion channel of one stereocilium to the side of the
stereocilium next to it.
The stereocilia increase in height progressively, so that all but the
tallest ones have tip links leading to talle stereocilia beside them. When a
taller stereocilium bends away from a shorter one, it pulls on the tip link
and opens the ion channel of the shorter stereocilium. The channel is
nonselective, but since the predominant ion of the endolymph is K_, the
primary effect of this gating is to allow a quick burst of K_ to flow into
each hair cell. This depolarizes the hair cell while the channel is open, and
when the stereocilium bends the other way its channel closes and the cell
becomes briefly hyperpolarized. During the moments of depolarization, a
hair cell releases a neurotransmitter that stimulates the sensory dendrites
synapsing with its base. Each depolarization thus generates action
potentials in the cochlear nerve.
Sensory Coding
Our ability to distinguish loudness and pitch depends on the ability of
the cochlea to respond differently to vibrations of different amplitude and
frequency. Loud sounds produce more vigorous vibrations of the organ of
Corti. This excites a greater number of hair cells over a broader area of
basilar membrane and triggers a higher frequency of action potentials in
the cochlear nerve fibers. If the brain detects intense activity in nerve
fibers from a broad region of the organ of Corti, it interprets this as a loud
sound. Frequency discrimination requires a more sophisticated
mechanism. The basilar membrane is spanned by short, stiff collagen
fibers of various lengths. At its proximal (basal) end, the basilar
membrane is attached, narrow, and stiff. At its distal (apical) end, it is
unattached, five times wider than at the base, and more flexible.
Think of the basilar membrane as analogous to a rope stretched
tightly between two posts. If you pluck the rope at one end, a wave of
vibration travels down its length and back. This produces a standing wave,
with some regions of the rope vertically displaced more than others.
Similarly, a sound causes a standing wave in the basilar membrane. The
peak amplitude of this wave is near the distal end in the case of low-
frequency sounds and nearer the proximal (attached) end with sounds of
higher frequencies. When the brain receives signals mainly from inner hair
cells at the distal end, it interprets the sound as low-pitched; when signals
come mainly from the proximal end, it interprets the sound as high-
pitched. Speech, music, and other everyday sounds, of course, are not
pure tonesthey create complex patterns of vibration in the basilar
membrane that must be decoded by the brain.
Cochlear Tuning
Just as we tune a radio to receive a certain frequency, we also tune
our cochlea to receive some frequencies better than others. The outer hair
cells (OHCs) are supplied with a few sensory fibers (5%10% of those in
the cochlear nerve), but more importantly, they receive motor fibers from
the brain. In response to sound, the OHCs trigger nerve signals to the
medulla by way of the sensory neurons, and the pons sends signals
immediately to the OHCs by way of the motor neurons. In response, the
hair cells contract by about 10% to 15%. Because an OHC is anchored to
the basilar membrane below and its stereocilia are embedded in the
tectorial membrane above, contraction of an OHC reduces the basilar
membranes freedom to vibrate.
This results in some regions of the organ of Corti sending fewer
signals to the brain than neighboring regions, so the brain can better
distinguish between the more active and less active hair cells and sound
frequencies. When OHCs are experimentally incapacitated, the inner hair
cells (IHCs) respond much less precisely to differences in pitch. There is
another mechanism of cochlear tuning involving the inner hair cells. The
pons sends efferent fibers to the cochlea that synapse with the sensory
nerve fibers near the base of the IHCs. The efferent fibers can inhibit the
sensory fibers from firing in some areas of the cochlea, and thus enhance
the contrast between signals from the more responsive and less
responsive regions. Combined with the previously described role of the
OHCs, this sharpens the tuning of the cochlea and our ability to
discriminate sounds of different pitch.
The Auditory Projection Pathway
A spiral ganglion, wound around the modiolus, is composed of
bipolar sensory neurons. Their dendrites originate at the hair cells and
their axons form the cochlear nerve. The cochlear nerve joins the
vestibular nerve, discussed later, and the two together become the
vestibulocochlear nerve (cranial nerve VIII).
The cochlear nerve fibers from each ear lead to cochlear nuclei on
both sides of the pons. There, they synapse with second-order neurons
that ascend to the nearby superior olivary nucleus of the pons. By way of
cranial nerve VIII, the superior olivary nucleus. issues the efferent fibers
back to the cochlea that are involved in cochlear tuning. By way of cranial
nerves V3 and VII, it issues motor fibers to the tensor tympani and
stapedius muscles, respectively. The superior olivary nucleus also
functions in binaural31 hearingcomparing signals from the right and
left ears to identify the direction from which a sound is coming. Other
fibers from the cochlear nuclei ascend to the inferior colliculi of the
midbrain. The inferior colliculi help to locate the origin of a sound in space,
process fluctuations in pitch that are important for such purposes as
understanding another persons speech, and mediate the startle response
and rapid head turning that occur in reaction to loud or sudden noises.
Third-order neurons begin in the inferior colliculi and lead to the
thalamus. Fourth-order neurons begin here and complete the pathway to
the primary auditory cortex, which is in the superior margin of the
temporal lobe deep within the lateral sulcus. The temporal lobe is the site
of conscious perception of sound, and it completes the information
processing essential to binaural hearing. Because of extensive
decussation in the auditory pathway, damage to the right or left auditory
cortex does not cause a unilateral loss of hearing.
1. External Ear
The auricle (pinna) consists of an irregularly shaped plate of
elastic cartilage covered by tightly adherent skin on all sides. The
external auditory meatus is a somewhat flattened canal extending
from the surface into the temporal bone. Its internal limit is the
tympanic membrane. A stratified squamous epithelium continuous with
the skin lines the canal. Hair follicles, sebaceous glands, and the
ceruminous glands (a type of modified sweat gland) are found in the
submucosa. Ceruminous glands are coiled tubular glands that produce
the cerumen or earwax a brownish, semisolid mixture of fats and
waxes. Hairs and cerumen probably have a protective function. The
wall of the external auditory meatus is supported by elastic cartilage in
its outer third, whereas the temporal bone provides support for the
inner part of the canal.
Across the deep end of the external auditory meatus lies an oval
membrane, the tympanic membrane (eardrum). Its external surface
is covered with a thin layer of epidermis, and its inner surface is
covered with simple cuboidal epithelium continuous with the lining of
the tympanic cavity (see below). Between the two epithelial coverings
is a tough connective tissue layer composed of collagen and elastic
fibers and fibroblasts. The tympanic membrane is the structure that
transmits sound waves to the ossicles of the middle ear
2. Middle Ear
The middle ear, or tympanic cavity, is an irregular space that lies
in the interior of the temporal bone between the tympanic membrane
and the bony surface of the internal ear. It communicates anteriorly
with the pharynx via the auditory tube (eustachian tube) and
posteriorly with the air-filled cavities of the mastoid process of the
temporal bone. The middle ear is lined with simple squamous
epithelium resting on a thin lamina propria that is strongly adherent to
the subjacent periosteum. Near the auditory tube and in its interior, the
simple epithelium that lines the middle ear is gradually transformed
into ciliated pseudostratified columnar epithelium.
Although the walls of the tube are usually collapsed, the tube
opens during the process of swallowing, balancing the pressure of the
air in the middle ear with atmospheric pressure. In the medial bony
wall of the middle ear are two membrane-covered oblong regions
devoid of bone; these are the oval and round windows.
The tympanic membrane is connected to the oval window by a
series of three small bones, the auditory ossicles the malleus,
incus, and stapes that transmit the mechanical vibrations generated
in the tympanic membrane to the internal ear. The malleus inserts
itself into the tympanic membrane and the stapes into the membrane
of the oval window. These bones are articulated by synovial joints and,
like all structures of this cavity, are covered with simple squamous
epithelium. In the middle ear are two small muscles that insert
themselves into the malleus and stapes. They have a function in
regulating sound conduction.
3. Internal Ear
The internal ear is composed of two labyrinths. The bony
labyrinth consists of a series of spaces within the petrous portion
of the temporal bone that houses the membranous labyrinth. The
membranous labyrinth is a continuous epithelium-lined series of
cavities of ectodermal origin. It derives from the auditory vesicle
that is developed from the ectoderm of the lateral part of the
embryo's head. During embryonic development, this vesicle
invaginates into the subjacent connective tissue, loses contact with
the cephalic ectoderm, and moves deeply into the rudiments of the
future temporal bone. During this process, it undergoes a complex
series of changes in form, giving rise to two specialized regions of
the membranous labyrinth: the utricle and the saccule. The
semicircular ducts originate from the utricle, whereas the
elaborate cochlear duct is formed from the saccule. In each of
these areas, the epithelial lining becomes specialized to form
sensory structures such as the maculae of the utricle and saccule,
the cristae of the semicircular ducts, and the organ of Corti of the
cochlear duct.
The bony labyrinth consists of spaces in the temporal bone.
There is an irregular central cavity, the vestibule, housing the
saccule and the utricle. Behind this, three semicircular canals
enclose the semicircular ducts; the anterolateral cochlea contains
the cochlear duct.
The cochlea, about 35 mm in total length, makes two-and-one-
half turns around a bony core known as the modiolus. The
modiolus has spaces containing blood vessels and the cell bodies
and processes of the acoustic branch of the eighth cranial nerve
(spiral ganglion). Extending laterally from the modiolus is a thin
bony ridge, the osseous spiral lamina. This structure extends
across the cochlea farther in the basal region than it does at the
The bony labyrinth is filled with perilymph, which is similar in
ionic composition to extracellular fluids elsewhere but has a very
low protein content. The membranous labyrinth contains
endolymph, which is characterized by its low sodium and high
potassium content. The protein concentration in endolymph is low.
Cochlear Duct
The cochlear duct, a diverticulum of the saccule, is highly specialized
as a sound receptor. It is about 35 mm long and is surrounded by
specialized perilymphatic spaces. When observed in histological sections,
the cochlea (in the bony labyrinth) appears to be divided into three
spaces: the scala vestibuli (above), the scala media (cochlear duct) in
the middle, and the scala tympani The cochlear duct, which contains
endolymph, ends at the apex of the cochlea. The other two scalae contain
perilymph and are, in reality, one long tube, beginning at the oval
window and terminating at the round window. They communicate at
the apex of the cochlea via an opening known as the helicotrema.
The cochlear duct has the following histological structure. The
vestibular (Reissner's) membrane consists of two layers of squamous
epithelium, one derived from the scala media and the other from the
lining of the scala vestibuli. Cells of both layers are joined by means of
extensive tight junctions that help preserve the very high ionic gradients
across this membrane. The stria vascularis is an unusual vascularized
epithelium located in the lateral wall of the cochlear duct. It consists of
cells that have many deep infoldings of their basal plasma membranes,
where numerous mitochondria are located. These characteristics indicate
that they are ion- and water-transporting cells, and it is generally believed
that they are responsible for the characteristic ionic composition of
The structure of the internal ear that contains special auditory
receptors is called the organ of Corti; it contains hair cells that respond
to different sound frequencies. It rests on a thick layer of ground
substancethe basilar membrane. Supporting cells and two types of
hair cells can be distinguished. Three to five rows of outer hair cells can
be seen, depending on the distance from the base of the organ, and there
is a single row of inner hair cells. The most characteristic feature of
these cells is the W-shaped (outer hair cells) or linear (inner hair cells)
array of stereocilia. A basal body is found in the cytoplasm adjacent to the
tallest stereocilia. In contrast to vestibular receptors, no kinocilium is
present. This absence of a kinocilium imparts symmetry to the hair cell
that is important in sensory transduction.