Stapedius muscle

Bones and muscles in the tympanic cavity in the middle ear

The medial wall and part of the posterior and anterior walls of the right tympanic cavity, lateral view.
Origin Walls of pyramidal eminence
Insertion Neck of stapes
Artery Stapedial branch of posterior auricular artery
Nerve Facial nerve (nerve to stapedius)
Actions Control the amplitude of sound waves to the inner ear
Latin Musculus stapedius
TA A15.3.02.062
FMA 49027

Anatomical terms of muscle

The stapedius is the smallest skeletal muscle in the human body. At just over one millimeter in length, its purpose is to stabilize the smallest bone in the body, the stapes.


The stapedius emerges from a pinpoint foramen in the apex of the pyramidal eminence (a hollow, cone-shaped prominence in the posterior wall of the tympanic cavity), and inserts into the neck of the stapes.[1] :863


The stapedius is innervated by the nerve to stapedius, a branch of the facial nerve.[1] :863


The stapedius dampens the vibrations of the stapes by pulling on the neck of that bone.[1] :863 It prevents excess movement of the stapes, helping to control the amplitude of sound waves from the general external environment to the inner ear. The stapedius muscle dampens the ability of the stapes vibration and protects the inner ear from high noise levels, primarily the volume of your own voice.

Clinical relevance

Paralysis of the stapedius, such as an injury to the facial nerve (CN VII) distal to the geniculate ganglion prior to its branch to stapedius muscle (which would also cause Bell's Palsy), allows wider oscillation of the stapes, resulting in heightened reaction of the auditory ossicles to sound vibration. This condition, known as hyperacusis, causes normal sounds to be perceived as very loud.

Evolutionary variation

Like the stapes bone to which it attaches, the stapedius muscle shares evolutionary history with other vertebrate structures.

The mammalian stapedius evolved from a muscle called the depressor mandibulae in other tetrapods, the function of which was to open the jaws (this function was taken over by the digastric muscle in mammals). The depressor mandibulae arose from the levator operculi in bony fish, and is equivalent to the epihyoidean in sharks. Like the stapedius, all of these muscles derive from the hyoid arch and are innervated by cranial nerve VII.[2]

See also

This article uses anatomical terminology; for an overview, see Anatomical terminology.


  1. 1 2 3 Drake, Richard L.; Vogl, Wayne; Tibbitts, Adam W.M. Mitchell; illustrations by Richard; Richardson, Paul (2005). Gray's anatomy for students. Philadelphia: Elsevier/Churchill Livingstone. ISBN 978-0-8089-2306-0.
  2. Kardong, Kenneth V. (1995). Vertebrates: comparative anatomy, function, evolution. McGraw-Hill. pp. 55, 57. ISBN 0-697-21991-7.
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