What is the Stirrup

The stirrup, also known as stapes, is one of the three ear ossicles found in the middle ear, along with the incus and malleus. It is also the most medial of the three middle ear bones and the smallest bone in the human body. The name of the bone comes from the Latin word ‘stapes’, which refers to a stirrup, the foot-hold attached to a horse-saddle, due to its resemblance in shape with the same.

Where is the Stirrup Bone Located

As mentioned earlier, it is positioned as the innermost ear ossicle, located most medially.

Quick Facts

Type  Irregular Bone
Size (in a typical adult) Height: About 3.5 mm
Width: About 2.5 mm
How many are there in the human body  2 (1 in each ear)
Articulates with Incus


The primary function of the stirrup bone is to assist in the hearing process.

When sound waves hit the eardrum, it begins to vibrate, and this vibration travels through all three bones of the middle ear and gets amplified. The stirrup is the final bone of this chain. It impacts the oval window of the inner ear, creating a wave in the cochlear fluid. This initiates a process that converts sound waves into electrical signals, which are then interpreted by the brain, thus completing the hearing process.


The stirrup is stirrup-shaped, with a head, two limbs or crura, a neck, and a base.

Stirrup Bone Anatomy

Head: The bone has a concave head or capitulum featuring a depression, which is covered by cartilage and articulates with the lenticular process of the incus.

Neck: It is the constricted part of the bone, present just below the head. The tendon of the stapedius muscle attaches here.

Limbs or crura: The two bony limbs, called anterior and posterior crura, diverge from the neck and are connected at their ends by a base. The anterior is shorter and less curved than the posterior of the two crura. The hollow space formed by these two limbs is termed obturator foramen.

Base: Also known as foot piece or footplate, it is a flattened oval plate attached to the neck via anterior and posterior crura or limbs. It articulates with the oval window of the inner ear.

Muscle and Ligament Attachment


The stapedius muscle is attached to the neck of the stirrup. This muscle contracts in response to loud noise, pulling the annular ligament, thus preventing excessive movement of the stirrup bone.


  1. Stapedial annular ligament (SAL): It is a ring of soft fibrous tissue connecting the base of the stirrup to the oval window of the inner ear via a mucosal layer called stapedial membrane.
  2. Annular ligament of the stirrup (stapedial annular ligament): It is a ring of fibrous tissue around the oval window that connects it to the base of the stirrup in the tympano-stapedial syndesmosis.


  1. Incudostapedial joint – A synovial joint between the lenticular process of the long limb of the incus and the head of the stirrup.


    1. Stirrup –
    2. Stirrup bone –
    3. Anatomy, Head and Neck, Ear Ossicles –
    4. Auditory ossicles –
    5. The Middle Ear –
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