Anatomy of the Inner Ear

Timothy C. Hain, MD Page last modified: July 31, 2022

While there are several other surveys of inner ear anatomy, we have diffidently here set out to put the content in our lecture on this subject on the web.

Overview of peripheral anatomy

Mechanical sensors (canals and otoliths) respond to angular and linear movement. This is an artist's drawing, based on the classic drawing by Max Brodel, and some liberties were taken for clarity. For example, the length of the internal auditory canal (IAC) is very short here. See the commentary about accuracy below. We have attempted to provide some "real" images from MRI and CT scans below.


MRI normal inner ear

On the accuracy of the above illustration (the "master ear" adapted from Brodel).

The illustration of the inner ear at the top of this page, the "Master ear", is an artists redrawing of an illustration originally due to Max Brodel (1946). This small book was published posthumously, based on drawings made originally in 1939.

Jackler et al (2014) pointed out that this illustration (which has been used by many) has numerous errors -- they state "Numerous anatomic errors exist such as a 180-degree reversal of the incus and a markedly foreshortened internal auditory canal. " Some of these errors were presumably made to avoid a "cluttered image". Nevertheless, others are just anatomic errors such as the "180 degree reversal of the incus". Jackler et al (2014) provide a link to a more correct illustration here. The more accurate illustration does not reveal the structures within the ear as clearly as the Brodel drawing, but the accuracy is of course very important, especially to surgeons.

Next --> Tour the ear

Also see:Illustration from Jackler et al (2014)Educational Models of the labyrinthine anatomy involved with BPPV.