Medical Definition of Inner ear

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Inner ear: A highly complex structure whose essential component for hearing is the membranous labyrinth, where the fibers of the auditory nerve connect the ear to the brain. The membranous labyrinth is a system of communicating sacs and ducts (tubes) filled with fluid (endolymph), and it 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 within the bony labyrinth in a fluid called perilymph. The bony labyrinth has three parts: a central cavity called the vestibule; semicircular canals, which open into the vestibule; and a spiraling tube called the cochlea. The membranous labyrinth also has a vestibule, which consists of two sacs (the utriculus and sacculus) that are connected by a narrow tube. The larger of the two sacs, the utriculus, is the principal organ of the vestibular system, which is the system of balance. This system informs a person about the position and movement of the head. The smaller of the two sacs, the sacculus, is also connected by a membranous tube to the cochlea that contains the organ of Corti. The hair cells, which are the special sensory receptors for hearing, are in the organ of Corti.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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