What is sound? Sound is composed of waves of pressure. Through a series of events, these waves of
pressure are amplified and changed into a signal, which moves ciliary hairs on receptors in the inner ear,
changing the signal into a neural signal.
A. Overview of Hearing
Go to the Views menu, select Microanatomy, and choose 7. Ear.
Auricle, helix
Auricle, antihelix
Auricle, concha
Auricle, lobule
Auricle, crura of antihelix
Auricle, antitragus
External acoustic meatus
Tympanic membrane
(ear drum)
1. Examine the outer ear. Note how it looks like a funnel. What do funnels do when you pour liquid into
2. How do you think the outer ears funnel-like shape would influence sound movement through the
3. The tympanum of the ear is colloquially called the “ear drum.” What happens when you hit a drum?
4. What do you think hits the tympanum?
5. The force of something pushing on something else is related to the change in pressure divided
by the resistance. This means that what it is pushing on is important. Which has more resistance (is
harder to push against), air or water?
6. What would be needed to overcome increased resistance?
7. The inner ear is fluid-filled, while the external ear conducts sound through the air. What must happen
to the signal as it transitions from air to fluid?
8. Briefly, what triggers a neural signal?
1. Locate the auricle. What are the divisions of the auricle?
2. Note the funnel-like shape of the auricle; it funnels sound into the middle ear.
3. Locate the external acoustic meatus. What is its function?
A. Auricle
Go to the Views menu, select Microanatomy, and choose 7. Ear.
You are responsible for the identification of all bold terms and answers.
Auricle, lobule
Auricle, antihelix
External acoustic meatus
Auricle, concha
1. Locate the following structures and label them in the diagram above:
a. Tympanum
b. Cochlea
c. Incus
d. Stapes
e. Malleus
2. For the structures listed above, list them in order, from outermost to innermost.
B. Middle Ear
Go to the Views menu, select Microanatomy, and choose 8. Middle Ear.
3. For the structures listed a–d above, list the role each of them has in hearing.
Oval window
Semicircular canals
4. The stapes connects to the oval window, which is a membrane that allows the movement of the
stapes to create waves in the fluid inside the cochlea of the inner ear.
Label the following structures in the image below.
• Cochlea
• Vestibule
• Semicircular canals
• Oval window
5. What part(s) of the inner ear do the nerves connect to?
6. Where do these nerves project in the brain? (For each structure you choose, be sure to select the
book icon for more information.)
7. Locate the round window. What is its function in hearing?
C. Cochlea
Go to the Views menu, select Microanatomy, and choose 10. Cochlea.
1. Locate the following structures:
a. Scala tympani
b. Scala vestibuli
c. Cochlear duct
d. Tectorial membrane
e. Reissners membrane (vestibular)
f. Basilar membrane
g. Hair cells
2. Examine the hair cells. What do they look like?
Vestibular membrane
Cochlea duct
Basilar membrane
Hair cells
Scala vestibuli
Tectorial membrane
Scala tympani
3. Which membranes are the hair cells in contact with? (Include the part of the cell in contact with each
4. Which nerves are the hair cells in contact with?
5. When the stapes vibrates against the oval window, it causes the basilar membrane to vibrate up and
down. What would this do to the hair cells?
6. The basilar membrane starts wide, and as it travels through the cochlea, it gets narrower. The base
of this membrane is sensitive to very high-pitched noises, because it is very rigid. As you move toward
the tip, it becomes more flexible and thus more sensitive to low-pitched noises.
a. Where do high-pitched sounds contact the membrane?
b. Where do low-pitched sounds contact the membrane?
c. Where would medium-pitched sounds contact the membrane?
7. Examine the semicircular canals in the image below. Each of these canals is filled with fluid, and
much like in the cochlea, movement of this fluid stimulates hair cells, causing an action potential. Note
that each of these canals is oriented in a different direction. In this way, these canals work like levels
(as in the tools, also known as spirit levels or bubble levels) for your body. In the image below, draw an
arrow representing the plane of movement that would activate each of the canals.
D. Inner Ear
Go to the Views menu, select Microanatomy, and choose 9. Inner Ear.
1. What is the name of the nerve that connects to the semicircular canals?
2. Where does that nerve project to in the brain?
Semicircular canals
CN 08 (VIII)
Vestibulocochlear nerve,
superior ganglion
CN 08 (VIII)
Vestibulocochlear nerve
1. When a sound enters the ear, what are the structures it passes through on its way to become a fully
processed neural signal within the brain? Fill in the blanks below.
Sound enters through the ___________________________ of the ear, which funnels it into the
_______________________________. At the end of this structure is the _______________________________, which
vibrates because of the pressure waves created by the sound. This vibration causes movement in
a series of bones: first, a small bone called the _______________________________; second, a small bone
called the _______________________________; and third, a bone called the _______________________________,
which is connected to the _______________________________ of the inner ear. The movement of these bones
causes fluid within the cochlea to move, resulting in movement of the _______________________________
membrane. The movement of this membrane causes the _______________________________ to move
against the _______________________________ membrane, resulting in the creation of a neural signal.
This signal travels through the _______________________________ nerve, which is transferred to the
_______________________________ nucleus of the _______________________________ in the brainstem. From
there, information is relayed through multiple regions in the brain, eventually reaching the
_______________________________ of the cerebral cortex.
2. When the head is tilted, what are the structures the signal passes through on its way to becoming a
fully processed neural signal within the brain? Fill in the blanks below.
When the head is tilted, the fluid within the _______________________________ of the inner ear moves.
The exact location of stimulated cells depends on the plane of movement—with each plane being
represented by a different part of that structure. The movement of fluid stimulates
_______________________________, which transduce the signal into an electrical signal. This signal travels
through the _______________________________ nerve to the _______________________________ nucleus of the
_______________________________. From there, the information is sent to the _______________________________
for subconscious action and to the _______________________________ for conscious sensation.
Source: Microanatomy Views: View 7: Ear
Source: Microanatomy Views: View 7: Ear
Source: Microanatomy Views: View 8: Middle Ear
Source: Microanatomy Views: View 8: Middle Ear
Source: Microanatomy Views: View 10: Cochlea
Source: Microanatomy Views: View 9: Inner Ear