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Outer ear

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Subject: Inner ear, Middle ear, Analog ear, Cochlear cupula, Sulcus spiralis internus
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Outer ear

Outer ear
External and middle ear, opened from the front. Right side.
The auricula. Lateral surface.
Latin auris externa
Gray's p.1033
MeSH A09.246.272
Outer ear
Anatomical terminology

The outer ear is the external portion of the ear, which consists of the pinna and external auditory meatus. It gathers sound energy and focuses it on the eardrum (tympanic membrane).



The visible part is called the pinna, also known as the auricle. It is composed of a thin plate of yellow elastic cartilage, covered with integument, and connected to the surrounding parts by ligaments and muscles; and to the commencement of the external acoustic meatus by fibrous tissue. Many mammals can move the pinna (with the auriculares muscles) in order to focus their hearing in a certain direction in much the same way that they can turn their eyes. Most humans, unlike most other mammals, do not have this ability.

Ear canal

From the pinna the sound pressure waves move into the ear canal, also known as the external acoustic meatus a simple tube running through the middle ear. This tube leads inward from the bottom of the auricula and conducts the vibrations to the tympanic cavity and amplifies frequencies in the range 3 kHz to 12 kHz.


Intrinsic muscles

Intrinsic muscles of external ear
The muscles of the auricula
Facial nerve
Actions Undeveloped in humans
Gray's p.1035
Anatomical terms of muscle

The intrinsic muscles of the external ear are the:

  • The helicis major is a narrow vertical band situated upon the anterior margin of the helix. It arises below, from the spina helicis, and is inserted into the anterior border of the helix, just where it is about to curve backward.
  • The helicis minor is an oblique fasciculus, covering the crus helicis.
  • The tragicus is a short, flattened vertical band on the lateral surface of the tragus.
  • The antitragicus arises from the outer part of the antitragus, and is inserted into the cauda helicis and antihelix.
  • The transverse muscle is placed on the cranial surface of the pinna. It consists of scattered fibers, partly tendinous and partly muscular, extending from the eminentia conchae to the prominence corresponding with the scapha.
  • The oblique muscle also on the cranial surface, consists of a few fibers extending from the upper and back part of the concha to the convexity immediately above it.

Extrinsic muscles

Auricular muscles
The muscles of the pinna
Auricular muscles in context with the other facial muscles
Latin Musculi auriculares
Galeal aponeurosis
Front of the helix, cranial surface of the pinna
Posterior auricular artery
Facial nerve
Actions Undeveloped in humans (wiggle ears)
Gray's p.1035
Anatomical terms of muscle

The auricular muscles (or extrinsic muscles) are the three muscles surrounding the auricula or outer ear:

The superior muscles is the largest of the three, followed by the posterior and the anterior.

In some mammals these muscles can adjust the direction of the pinna. In humans these muscles possess very little action. The auricularis anterior draws the auricula forward and upward; the Auricularis superior slightly raises it; and the Auricularis posterior draws it backward.


One consequence of the configuration of the outer ear is selectively to boost the sound pressure 30- to 100-fold for frequencies around 3 kHz. This amplification makes humans most sensitive to frequencies in this range — and also explains why they are particularly prone to acoustical injury and hearing loss near this frequency. Most human speech sounds are also distributed in the bandwidth around 3 kHz.[1]

Clinical significance

Malformations of the external ear can be a consequence of hereditary disease, or exposure to environmental factors such as radiation, infection. Such defects include:


Usually, malformations are treated with surgery, although artificial prostheses are also sometimes used.[3]

  • Preauricular fistulas are generally not treated unless chronically inflammed .[3]
  • Cosmetic defects without functional impairment are generally repaired after ages 6–7.[2]

If malformations are accompanied by hearing loss amenable to correction, then the early use of hearing aids may prevent complete hearing loss.[2]


This article incorporates text from a public domain edition of Gray's Anatomy.

  1. ^ Purves, Dale, George J. Augustine, David Fitzpatrick, William C. Hall, Anthony-Samuel LaMantia, James O. McNamara, and Leonard E. White (2008). "Chapter 13". Neuroscience. 4th ed. Sinauer Associates. p. 317.  
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Богомильский, Чистякова 2002.
  3. ^ a b c Пальчун, Крюков 2001.
  4. ^ a b СЭС 1986.
  5. ^ a b Асанов и др. 2003.
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