Tensor tympani

Medically reviewed by Healthline Medical Team on January 27, 2015

The human ear has three segments: external, middle, and inner ear. The tensor tympani muscle is one of the two muscles in the middle ear.

The middle ear, located between the eardrum and the inner ear, has three tiny bones known as the ossicles. They are the smallest bones in the human body. We know them as the malleus (hammer), incus (anvil), and stapes (stirrup). They transmit sounds from the air to the fluid-filled chamber of the inner ear.

The hollow space of the middle ear is the tympanic cavity. As sound waves penetrate the external ear, the eardrum vibrates. This vibration is then communicated to the ossicles, which transmit it on to the inner ear.

The muscles of the middle ear can regulate the movement of these bones. When very loud sounds are heard, the muscles contract and reduce the vibration of the ossicles. The amplitude of the sounds is thus decreased. This is referred to as the acoustic reflex. The tensor tympani muscle is attached to the malleus. Its role in the acoustic reflex is to pull the malleus away from the eardrum.

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