Middle ear ossicles

There are three tiny articulating bones in the middle ear known as ossicles (from lateral to medial):

Their role is to mechanically amplify the vibrations of the tympanic membrane and transmit them to the cochlea where they can be interpreted as sound. They are located in the middle ear cavity and articulate with each other via two tiny synovial joints. The stapes also articulates with the oval window via the stapediovestibular joint, which is a syndesmosis 3; this joint transmits the ossicular vibrations to the endolymph in the vestibule.

Interestingly, they are the only bones in the body that do not grow after birth, and are also the smallest bones in the body (variant tiny sesamoids aside).

Anatomy: Head and neck
Share article

Article information

rID: 1789
System: Head & Neck
Section: Anatomy
Tag: stub, refs
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Ossicular chain

Support Radiopaedia and see fewer ads

Cases and figures

  • Figure 1: ossicles
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 2: stapes
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 3: incus
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 4: malleus
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 5: incus - annotated CT
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 6: stapes - annotated CT
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 7: malleus - annotated CT
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Figure 8: middle ear anatomy (CT)
    Drag here to reorder.
  • Updating… Please wait.

     Unable to process the form. Check for errors and try again.

     Thank you for updating your details.