Connection lost. Please refresh the page.
Get help How to study Login Register
Ready to learn?
Pick your favorite study tool

Tympanic membrane

Recommended video: Introduction to the ear [21:34]
Overview of the structures of the outer ear and auditory tube.

The tympanic membrane (eardrum) is an oval, semi-transparent structure situated between the external auditory meatus  and the tympanic cavity of the middle ear

The tympanic membrane is divided into two main parts

  • Pars tensa - forms most of the tympanic membrane. It is thickened at its outer margin to form a fibrocartilaginous ring called the tympanic ring
  • Pars flaccida (Shrapnell's membrane) - is a small triangular portion of the membrane situated superior to the lateral process of the malleus. More specifically, it is located between the anterior and posterior malleolar folds. 

The tympanic membrane also has two surfaces: the lateral (external) and the medial (internal) surface. The lateral surface of the tympanic membrane is concave towards the external auditory meatus and is directed anteriorly and inferolaterally. The medial surface of the tympanic membrane is convex towards the tympanic cavity. The point of maximum convexity of the membrane is known as the umbo which is created by the attachment of the malleus to the center of the membrane. When the tympanic membrane is illuminated under the light (otoscope), the concavity of the membrane produces a cone of light radiating from the umbo over the inferior quadrant of the membrane. 

The tympanic membrane receives a dual blood supply; the outer part receives blood via the deep auricular artery, while the medial surface receives blood via the anterior and posterior tympanic arteries. 

The membrane is innervated by three cranial nerves. The anterior portion of the lateral surface is innervated by the auriculotemporal nerve of the mandibular nerve (CN V3), while the posterior part is innervated by the vagus nerve (CN X). The medial surface is innervated by the glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX).

The tympanic membrane serves as the physical barrier between the middle and outer ear and thus it has a role in the protection of the middle and inner ear structures. In addition, it also has an important role in sound transmission from the outer ear to the auditory ossicles

Terminology English: Tympanic membrane
: Membrana tympanica
Structure Parts: Pars tensa and pars flaccida
: Medial (internal) and lateral (external) surfaces
Blood supply Deep auricular artery;
Anterior and posterior tympanic arteries
Innervation Lateral surface: Auriculotemporal nerve (branch of mandibular nerve (CN V3)), vagus nerve (CN X)
Medial surface:
Glossopharyngeal nerve (CN IX)
Functions Protection of the middle ear; sound transmission from the outer to the middle ear and auditory ossicles.
  1. Sources
+ Show all

Test your knowledge on the middle ear with this quiz.

Learn everything about the structures of the outer and middle ear with the following study units: 

Tympanic membrane: want to learn more about it?

Our engaging videos, interactive quizzes, in-depth articles and HD atlas are here to get you top results faster.

What do you prefer to learn with?

“I would honestly say that Kenhub cut my study time in half.” – Read more.

Kim Bengochea Kim Bengochea, Regis University, Denver
© Unless stated otherwise, all content, including illustrations are exclusive property of Kenhub GmbH, and are protected by German and international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

Register now and grab your free ultimate anatomy study guide!