Javascript RegEx optimization

Below in the code section I have a piece that will take a word out of a string list and replace it with a space.  Moreover, I want to make sure that it only locates FULL words.  i.e. I dont want a search/replace for "ear" turning "clear" into "cl"  However, what I do not like about my solution is that I have to test for 4 cases:

Testing the word "cat":
word is surrounded in spaces "\s" (i.e. cat is in "A cat and a dog")
word is the entire string (i.e. cat is in "cat")
word is start of a string "^" (i.e. cat is in "cat in the hat")
word is at end of a string "$" (i.e. cat is in "My cat")

Below is the regex, can anyone optimize it to remove all the ORs ( | ) into a single check that will not require me to always be searching for the end and beginning of strings in this current manner?

Thanks
var string = 'apple bear clear dear ear fear gold';
var replacement = trim(string.replace(/(\sear\s|^ear\s|\sear$|^ear$)/,' '));
alert(replacement);

// replacement should only remove the word "ear", not words that may also contain the letters "ear"
/ P.S. I already have my own trim function, so dont worry about that part of the JS

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js_vaughanAsked:
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js_vaughanAuthor Commented:
One more test case that seems to fail my version of the code that would be nice to have working in the final piece of code:
var myString = 'ear ear';
var replacement = trim(myString.replace(/(\sear\s|^ear\s|\sear$|^ear$)/g,' '));
alert(replacement);

// replacement will be "ear"

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käµfm³d 👽Commented:
What about:

\bear\b

where "\b" matches a word boundary. If "\b" doesn't work, then try the alternate boundary syntax of "\<" and "\>" for left and right boudaries, respectively.
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js_vaughanAuthor Commented:
The boundry got me most of the way there, except for I was left with extra spaces.  Below is my final code piece:
var replacement = trim(myString.replace(/(\s|\b)ear(\s|\b)/g,' '));

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käµfm³d 👽Commented:
Glad it worked for you.

As a note, searching for word boundaries is non-matching--meaning the space or punctuation which the boundary matches is not actually part of the overall match. This is the reason why you still had spaces after the replace.
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Regular Expressions

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