The three-bone flexible ossicular chain in mammals may allow independent alterations of middle-ear (ME) sound transmission via its two attached muscles, for both acoustic and non-acoustic stimuli.
The tensor tympani (TT) muscle, which has its insertion on the malleus neck, is thought to increase tension of the tympanic membrane (TM).
The stapedius (St) muscle, which has its insertion on the stapes posterior crus, is known to stiffen the stapes annular ligament. We produced ME changes in human cadaveric temporal bones by statically pulling on the TT and St muscles.
The 3D static TM shape and sound-induced umbo motions from 20 Hz to 10 kHz were measured with optical coherence tomography (OCT); stapes motion was measured using laser-Doppler vibrometry (LDV).
TT pulls made the TM shape more conical and moved the umbo medially, while St pulls moved the umbo laterally. In response to sound below about 1 kHz, stapes-velocity magnitudes generally decreased by about 10 dB due to TT pulls and 5 dB due to St pulls.