Ear, internal: There are three sections of the ear. They are the external ear, the middle ear, and the internal ear. The internal ear is far and away the most highly complex. The essential component of the internal ear for hearing is the membranous labyrinth, located inside the bony cochlea, where the fibers of the auditory nerve (the nerve connecting the ear to the brain) end. The membranous labyrinth is a system of communicating sacs and ducts (tubes) filled with fluid (endolymph). The membranous labyrinth is lodged within a cavity called the bony labyrinth. At some points the membranous labyrinth is attached to the bony labyrinth and at other points the membranous labyrinth is suspended in a fluid (the perilymph) within the bony labyrinth. The bony labyrinth has three parts: a central cavity (the vestibule), semicircular canals (which open into the vestibule) and the cochlea (a snail-shaped spiral tube). The membranous labyrinth also has a vestibule which consists of two sacs (called the utriculus and sacculus) connected by a narrow tube. The utriculus, the larger of the two sacs, is the principal organ of the vestibular system (which informs us about the position and movement of the head). The smaller of the two sacs, the sacculus (literally, the little sac) is connected with a membranous tube in the cochlea containing the organ of Corti. It is in the organ of Corti that are situated the hair cells, the special sensory receptors for hearing. The internal ear is also called the inner ear.
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Last Editorial Review: 7/1/2016