Tympanic membrane

The tympanic membrane is a vital component of the human ear, and is more commonly known as the eardrum.

It is a thin, circular layer of tissue that marks the point between the middle ear and the external ear. It is approximately 0.1 mm thick, 8 to 10 mm in diameter, and has a mass weight of around 14 mg. Despite this diminutive size and mass, the tympanic membrane is extremely tough and flexible, and difficult to damage beyond repair.

The tympanic membrane is comprised of three layers of tissue: the outer cutaneous layer, the fibrous middle layer, and a layer of mucous membrane on its innermost surface. The membrane is held in place by a thick ring of cartilage, a tough but flexible kind of tissue.

The tympanic membrane's function is to assist in human hearing. When sound waves enter the ear, they strike the tympanic membrane. The membrane vibrates with the force of the sound wave strike and transmits the vibrations further in, to the bones of the middle ear. Patients with ruptured or absent tympanic membranes have extreme difficulty in hearing, and possibly even complete hearing loss.

Written and medically reviewed by the Healthline Editorial Team
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In Depth: Tympanic membrane

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