The ear is the organ of hearing on both sides of the head. Ear symptoms may include physical ear symptoms such as ear pain (earache), ear itch, and so on, along with hearing symptoms such as hearing loss, deafness, tinnitus (hearing ringing in the ear), and other hearing symptoms. Ear disorders include physical ear disorders such as ear infection (middle ear infection; outer ear infection; inner ear infection), and hearing disorders such as deafness, Meniere’s Disease, and many others.

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The ear has three major parts: the outer ear, the middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear, also called the pinna, includes everything we see on the outside—the curved flap of the ear leading down to the earlobe—but it also includes the ear canal, which begins at the opening to the ear and extends to the eardrum. The eardrum is a membrane that separates the outer ear from the middle ear.

The middle ear—which is where ear infections occur—is located between the eardrum and the inner ear. Within the middle ear are three tiny bones called the malleus, incus, and stapes that transmit sound vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear. The bones of the middle ear are surrounded by air.

The inner ear contains the labyrinth, which help us keep our balance. The cochlea, a part of the labyrinth, is a snail-shaped organ that converts sound vibrations from the middle ear into electrical signals. The auditory nerve carries these signals from the cochlea to the brain.

Other nearby parts of the ear also can be involved in ear infections. The eustachian tube is a small passageway that connects the upper part of the throat to the middle ear. Its job is to supply fresh air to the middle ear, drain fluid, and keep air pressure at a steady level between the nose and the ear.

Adenoids are small pads of tissue located behind the back of the nose, above the throat, and near the eustachian tubes. Adenoids are mostly made up of immune system cells. They fight off infection by trapping bacteria that enter through the mouth.

Source: NIDCD (NIH)1

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Ear: The hearing and equilibrium system of the body. It consists of three parts: the External Ear, the Middle Ear, and the Inner Ear. Sound waves are transmitted through this organ where vibration is transduced to nerve signals that pass through the Acoustic Nerve to the Central Nervous System. The inner ear also contains the vestibular organ that maintains equilibrium by transducing signals to the Vestibular Nerve.2


Types may include:3

Types of Ear:

  • Left Ear
  • Right Ear

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  1. Source: NIDCD (NIH): nidcd.nih.gov/ health/ ear-infections-children
  2. Source: MeSH (U.S. National Library of Medicine)
  3. Source: NCI Thesaurus
  4. Source: CDC: cdc.gov/ getsmart/ community/ for-patients/ common-illnesses/ ear-infection.html
  5. Source: New Zealand Health: health.govt.nz/ your-health/ conditions-and-treatments/ diseases-and-illnesses
  6. Source: NCBI, Genes and Disease (NCBI/NIH): ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/ books/ NBK22204/ 
  7. Source: NIDCD (NIH): nidcd.nih.gov/ health/ tinnitus
  8. Source: CDC: cdc.gov/ getsmart/ community/ for-patients/ common-illnesses/ ear-infection.html

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.