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What Is the Temporal Bone?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 03 August 2014
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The temporal bone is one of the bones in the skull. Everyone has two of these bones, one on either side of the skull, with the bones comprising part of the sides and base of the skull. These bones are closely involved in the anatomy of the ear, and they house a number of anatomical structures of importance. People who research hearing disorders are especially interested in the study of the temporal form, as some hearing abnormalities can be traced to deviations in the formation of the temporal bone.

While the skull may seem like a fairly solid entity, it is actually made up of a number of smaller bones. At birth, these bones are separated, and they gradually fuse together as people grow and develop, creating seams known as sutures which slowly fill in over time, fusing the skull into a solid mass of bone to protect the brain and the other delicate structures inside. The gradual fusing of the skull can actually be used to judge someone's age, as the sutures close and fill in at a predictable rate.

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There are four sections of the temporal bone: the squama, petrous, tympanic, and mastoid. Each section is distinct from the others, with varying levels of density. The internal structure of the ear is partially created with the temporal bone, and the bone's shape is very much involved in the process of hearing. The temporal bones also protects and provides a route for several arteries, and provides some protection to the parotid gland.

Temporal bone fractures can occur when someone is hit very hard in the head. If someone is hit in the wrong place, he or she can die, as the blow may damage the brain, causing it to swell. Less ill-placed blows can result in hearing damage or loss as the delicate structures inside the temporal bone are damaged. Such fractures can be identified with the use of medical imaging studies which can be used to detect fractures of various sizes in the bone.

Surgery involving the temporal bone must be conducted with care, to avoid damaging a patient's hearing. Such surgery is often performed by an otolaryngologist, a physician who specializes in ear, nose, and throat surgery. Before surgery takes place, the doctor may order a number of medical imaging studies to get a clear picture of the internal structures in the area, so that he or she will be able to prepare for the procedure.

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Discuss this Article

mkwilke
Post 8

I just got a CT scan done and found out from my ear specialist after going in complaining about bad ear aches and migraines that I have a temporal bone fracture. Unfortunately, since he squeezed me in, he didn't really have time to tell me anything about it or what to do and not to do. He told me all the info could be readily found online, but now I am looking and not finding anything on what you can and can't do with a head injury like this. Does anyone know?

It is Thanksgiving tomorrow here in Canada and his staff won't be back until Tuesday. I have two little ones and I really don't want to do anything to make this worse, so if anyone could please help me out that would be appreciated. Happy Thanksgiving.

anon220533
Post 6

what is temporal bone dissection in a simple language where a non medical person can understand? why is it important?

anon163996
Post 5

Only recently, I discovered that my temporal bone, above my ears changed from flat to being like like corrugated iron shape. I do sometimes have "needle-stitch pain" in my head. I do not know whether to take this seriously. Info would be much appreciated. Thank you.

anon132163
Post 4

How does the temporal bone relate to the temples of the face? --Dave

pharmchick78
Post 3

Did you know you can actually get temporal bone cancer? It is luckily extremely rare, since any kind of head surgery, and especially temporal bone surgery is so risky, but I like to tell people that it's possible just so they can be prepared if they start seeing symptoms.

Just FYI, symptoms of temporal bone cancer are a chronic ear ache with a lot of discharge, a mass behind the ear or near the parotid (salivary) glands, hearing loss, vertigo, and tinnitus.

Because this cancer is so rare, you shouldn't be overly worried just from these symptoms, but you should be aware of the possibility of temporal bone cancer, and discuss this with your GP if you start having any symptoms like this.

Although it's pretty unlikely that it will actually turn out to be temporal bone cancer, these symptoms on their own are serious enough to warrant treatment, even if it's not cancer.

lightning88
Post 2

How exactly could you tell if somebody has a fracture of the temporal bone without radiology?

My daughter fell and bonked her head the other day, and now the place behind her hear is all swollen. I took her to the pediatrician, and he said something about the petrous part of the temporal bone being damaged -- but he wasn't sure. He said that she needed a temporal bone MRI, so we're doing that next week.

Can anybody tell me what the petrous temporal bone is, and how I could tell if it's damaged or fractured without imaging studies?

Thanks so much!

closerfan12
Post 1

Now here I would have thought of the temporal bone as being where you temple was rather than behind the ear. I'm glad I know though -- a friend of mine is going in for a temporal bone imaging CT to check up on a head injury she got in a car accident, and I had no idea what the temporal bone was, much less where it was.

Now I know, and can impress her with my knowledge of temporal bone anatomy when she comes back from her CT scan!

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