Learn about the parts of the ear with this anatomy and health guide. Your ears are two of the most important parts of your head. Without them, you couldn't hear or understand the world around you. Here is a rundown on each part of the ear and how it functions.
- Outer Ear: Your outer ear is called the pinna or auricle. This is the section of the ear that protrudes outward from your head. It also contains the ear canal and wax. Wax is produced in the canal. It keeps your entire ear clean by collecting dirt and germs. The outer ear protects and houses all other organs within the ear. The other important function of the pinna is to collect sound. Everything you hear is first sent to this part of the ear. It is then sent to the next sections to be processed.
- Inner Ear: The inner ear houses the ear drum and ossicles. The ear drum vibrates with any sound that enters it. It then sends the vibrations to the ossicles. Each ear's ossicle has three parts: malleus, stapes and incus. Sound travels along these tiny bones to the next section of the ear.
- Cochlea: The cochlea is the tubal part of the ear that receives vibrations directly from the ossicles. It is home to tiny hairs called cilia that collect the sent sound vibrations. A fluid is also found in the cochlea. The fluid sends waves of information and sound to the brain where it's processed into thought. Your brain now knows exactly what it is that you hear.
Any part of the ear can be damaged. If your outer ear is damaged, it is often called cauliflower ear. A damaged ear drum may lead to loss of hearing. It is important not to place any object larger than your finger in your ear. However, when removing wax, always cleanse the outside of the ear. Never stick a Q-tip inside the ear canal. Your wax is designed to clean and protect. Removing too much may lead to ear problems.