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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.
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.