The embryogenesis of the external, middle, and inner ear is a highly complex process. The external and middle ear are largely formed as part of the branchial apparatus, whereas the inner ear develops separately from the otic placode. Deviations from the normal pattern of embryogenesis at varying stages of development can give rise to a wide variety of congenital malformations. Because of how closely these structures are linked, a malformation affecting the external ear can also frequently affect the middle and internal ear and vice versa. A clear knowledge of the processes that lead to these congenital malformations helps inform our understanding of these pathologic conditions.
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