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Overview of the Middle Ear

By Richard T. Miyamoto, MD, MS, Arilla Spence DeVault Professor Emeritus and Past-Chairman, Department of Otolarynology - Head and Neck Surgery, Indiana University School of Medicine

The middle ear consists of the eardrum (tympanic membrane) and an air-filled chamber containing a chain of three bones (ossicles) that connect the eardrum to the inner ear (see Middle Ear). The middle ear acts as an amplifier of sound, whereas the inner ear acts as a transducer, changing mechanical sound waves into an electrical signal that is sent to the brain via the nerve of hearing (statoacoustic nerve).

A Look Inside the Ear

Middle and inner ear disorders cause many of the same symptoms, and a disorder of the middle ear may cause an inner ear disorder and vice versa.

Middle ear disorders may occur because of

Doctors base the diagnosis on people's symptoms and the physical examination. Doctors examine the ear canal and eardrum with an otoscope and often do hearing tests. Doctors also examine the nose and upper and middle parts of the throat for infections, allergies, and tumors.

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