Our ears are some of the most important parts of our body and are essential to our everyday routines. There are a total of three parts of the ear that work together to pass noise from external sources through your ear to your brain for information processing. The three sections are known as the inner ear, middle ear, and outer ear:
- Outer ear – The outer ear includes an ear canal that is lined with hairs and glands that secrete wax. This part of the ear provides protection and channels sound. The auricle (pinna) is the most visible part of the outer ear and what most people are referring to when they use the word “ear”.
- Middle ear – Three small bones (the malleus, incus, and stapes) within the middle ear transfer sound vibrations from the eardrum to the inner ear. The middle ear is important because it is filled with numerous air spaces, which provide routes for infections to travel. It is also the location of the Eustachian tube, which equalizes the air pressure between the inner and outer surfaces of the eardrum.
- Inner ear – The inner ear (also called the labyrinth) operates the body’s sense of balance and contains the hearing organ. A bony casing houses a system of membranous cells. There are two main sections within the inner ear, which are the bony labyrinth and the membranous labyrinth.
A cauliflower ear is characterized by thickened, fibrotic scarring of the ear, giving it a cauliflower-like appearance. Cauliflower ear is an acquired deformity of the outer ear that is typically caused by blunt trauma to the ear. Unfortunately, our ear is not well protected against blunt trauma.
When it is struck by a punch or kick, for instance, the blood supply to the skin and cartilage is suddenly disrupted, often forming a pocket of blood (auricular hematoma). If the blood is not evacuated or drained on time, a fibrous, solid material results, causing scarring and deformity of the ear, hence the term “cauliflower ear”.
Although this condition rarely impairs hearing, the cosmetic deformity is quite difficult to repair if not addressed immediately after the injury occurs.