The ear houses the auditory organ and the organ of balance. Read more about external auditory canal, eardrum, cochlea & co.!


The ear is that organ of our body with which we record sound, sounds, sounds and noises. The sound waves are caught by the auricle, pass through the ear canal to the eardrum and over the three auditory ossicles to the inner ear. There are the receptors for the hearing and also the vestibular organ. Find out everything important about the ear here: Structure and function as well as important illnesses and injuries!

What is the ear?

The human ear is an organ that combines two functions: the sense of hearing and the sense of balance.

The ear anatomy

The ear is divided into three anatomical areas:

  • the outer ear (Auris externa)
  • the middle ear (Auris media)
  • the inner ear (Auris interna)

The outer ear

These include the auricle (Auricula auris), the external auditory meatus (external auditory meatus) and the eardrum (Membrana tympani).

The auricle

You can find out more about this in the article Ohrmuschel.

The external auditory meatus (external auditory meatus) consists of a cartilaginous section at the beginning, which then merges into a bony section. He is a total of about three to three inches long, half a centimeter wide and slightly curved. The hair of the ear canal contains hair follicles, sebaceous and sweat glands. The latter excrete earwax (cerumen). This sticky, yellowish secretion cleans the ear canal and prevents the ingress of water, dust and dirt.

The tympanic membrane (Membrana tympani) is a membrane that separates the ear canal from the middle ear. It is about 0.1 millimeters thick and has a diameter of nine to eleven millimeters. The eardrum is grayish white, usually transparent and under tension. It is not completely even, because the first ossicle, the hammer (malleus) on the side of the middle ear, is fused with the middle of the eardrum membrane and gives it its shape.

The middle ear

More about structure and function as well as common diseases of this air-filled middle section can be found in the contribution middle ear.

The ossicles

Everything important about the three tiny, moving bones, which are important for the transmission of sound (hammer, anvil and stirrup), can be found in the article Auditory Ossicles.

Eustachian tube

From the middle ear there is a connection to the pharynx, the so-called Eustachian tube (tuba auditiva). Read more about them in the post Eustachian tube.

The inner ear (labyrinth)

Here are the actual hearing organ (organ of Corti) and the organ of balance. Everything important about the hearing organ you read in the contribution inner ear.

Vestibular system

Everything important about how the sense of balance works and how dizziness can occur can be found in the article on the organ of balance.

What function does the ear have?

The functions of the ear are in hearing, that is, in the auditory perception, as well as in the sense of balance - without these functions, the human could hear no sounds, sounds and noises and he would constantly dizzy.

Auditory perception

As the sound is collected, passed from the ossicles and passed in the form of a traveling wave in the liquid-filled inner ear to the sensory cells, read in the article Auditory perception.

Where is the ear?

Everyone has two ears - one on each side of the head. It ranges from the externally visible shell and the auditory canal via eardrum and ossicles to the cochlea with the sensory cells for sound perception.

What problems can the ear cause?

An inflammation of the external auditory canal (for example, an abscess or boil) is called otitis externa. It causes pain and itching in the external auditory canal. Cause of the ear canal inflammation are often bacteria that one can "catch" especially when swimming. Doctors therefore also speak of bathing otitis.

Otitis media usually develops as a result of a cold or sore throat when the pathogens ascend via the Eustachian tube. Children are particularly susceptible to the disease because the Eustachian tube is shorter than adults. The most common inflammation occurs between the ages of 6 and 18 months. The most important symptoms are pulsating pain and a feeling of pressure in the ear. Often there are also other complaints such as decreased hearing, fever and headache.

A sudden and persistent hissing, whistling, ringing, buzzing or humming in the ear - without external sound cause - is called tinnitus. It can be triggered, for example, by a hearing loss, various illnesses, stress or certain medications. If no cause can be identified, doctors speak of idiopathic tinnitus.

If someone is hypersensitive to sounds of all frequencies, even though the hearing organ is healthy, there is hyperacusis (noise hypersensitivity). Many people with tinnitus are affected.

For a variety of congenital or acquired reasons, hearing on one or both sides may be compromised. Physicians distinguish different forms of deafness, conductive deafness and sound deafness. In addition, almost all people develop old-age hearing loss (presbycusis) in old age. A hearing loss can take on different proportions. In some people hearing is only slightly impaired, others are completely deaf (deaf). Children born with hearing loss or deafness often have trouble learning to speak.

In otosclerosis, the otherwise mobile ossicles stiffen. The cause for this has not been clarified yet. The result of otosclerosis is deafness.

The eardrum can be torn by direct or indirect trauma, for example, by the improper use of cotton swabs when cleaning the ear canal or rapid changes in air pressure (explosion, etc.). Such a tympanic membrane injury (tympanic rupture) manifests itself in stinging pain and a sudden hearing loss. Sometimes blood also comes out of the ear canal, and those affected complain of dizziness. In most cases, a tympanic membrane rupture heals by itself and without consequences.

Small children often put a foreign object (marble, small toy parts, etc.) into it earwho then has to be removed by the doctor. Otherwise, ear canal inflammation may develop.

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