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Development and Integration of the Ear

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Abstract

The perception of our environment via sensory organs plays a crucial role in survival and evolution. Hearing, one of our most developed senses, depends on the proper function of the auditory system and plays a key role in social communication, integration, and learning ability.The ear is a composite structure, comprised of the external, middle, and inner ear. During development, the ear is formed from the integration of a number of tissues of different embryonic origin, which initiate in distinct areas of the embryo at different time points. Functional connections between the components of the hearing apparatus have to be established and maintained during development and adulthood to allow proper sound submission from the outer to the middle and inner ear. This highly organized and intimate connectivity depends on intricate spatiotemporal signaling between the various tissues that give rise to the structures of the ear. Any alterations in this chain of events can lead to the loss of integration, which can subsequently lead to conductive hearing loss, in case of outer and middle ear defects or sensorineural hearing loss, if inner ear structures are defective.This chapter aims to review the current knowledge concerning the development of the three ear compartments as well as mechanisms and signaling pathways that have been implicated in the coordination and integration process of the ear.

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