Stephen J. Schueler, M.D.

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Cholesteatoma Anatomy

To better understand cholesteatoma, it helps to understand the anatomy of the ear.

Sound travels through the air as waves. Sound waves are collected and focused into the ear canal by the external ear. Sound waves strike the surface of the eardrum causing it to vibrate. The vibrations are then transmitted through a system of tiny bones (ossicles) in the middle ear.

Sound vibrations eventually end up in the inner ear, where they are converted into electrical impulses and sent to the brain. This occurs in a structure known as the cochlea. The cochlea is lined by tiny hairs, which, when stimulated by sound waves, send electrical impulses to the brain.

Anatomy examples:

  • Pinna: the cartilage and skin of the external ear
  • Ear canal: passageway that leads to the eardrum
  • Tympanic membrane: the eardrum
  • Ossicles: three tiny bones that vibrate when sound waves strike the eardrum
  • Inner ear, or labyrinth: includes the cochlea and semi-circular canals
  • Cochlea: contains fluid and hair cells
  • Semi-circular canals: contains fluid and hair cells

Last Updated: Nov 3, 2008 References
Authors: Stephen J. Schueler, MD; John H. Beckett, MD; D. Scott Gettings, MD
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PubMed Cholesteatoma References
  1. Kazahaya K, Potsic WP. Congenital cholesteatoma. Curr Opin Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2004 Oct;12(5):398-403. [15377951]
  2. Lin V, Daniel S, James A, Friedberg J. Bilateral cholesteatomas: the hospital for sick children experience. J Otolaryngol. 2004 Jun;33(3):145-50. [15841990]
  3. Nelson M, Roger G, Koltai PJ, Garabedian EN, Triglia JM, Roman S, Castellon RJ, Hammel JP. Congenital cholesteatoma: classification, management, and outcome. Arch Otolaryngol Head Neck Surg. 2002 Jul;128(7):810-4. [12117341]
  4. Syms MJ, Luxford WM. Management of cholesteatoma: status of the canal wall. Laryngoscope. 2003 Mar;113(3):443-8. [12616194]
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