The ear has external, middle, and inner portions. The outer ear is called the pinna and is made of ridged cartilage covered by skin. Sound funnels through the pinna into the external auditory canal, a short tube that ends at the eardrum (tympanic membrane).
Sound causes the eardrum and its tiny attached bones in the middle portion of the ear to vibrate, and the vibrations are conducted to the nearby cochlea. The spiral-shaped cochlea is part of the inner ear; it transforms sound into nerve impulses that travel to the brain.
The fluid-filled semicircular canals (labyrinth) attach to the cochlea and nerves in the inner ear. They send information on balance and head position to the brain. The eustachian (auditory) tube drains fluid from the middle ear into the throat (pharynx) behind the nose.