The thickness of the human tympanic membrane (TM) is known to vary considerably across different regions of the TM. Quantitative determination of the thickness distribution and mapping of the TM is of significant importance in hearing research, particularly in mathematical modeling of middle-ear dynamics. Change in TM thickness is also associated with several middle-ear pathologies. Determination of the TM thickness distribution could therefore also enable a more comprehensive diagnosis of various otologic diseases. Despite its importance, very limited data on human TM thickness distribution, obtained almost exclusively from ex vivo samples, are available in the literature. In this study, the thickness distribution for the in vivo human TM is reported for the first time. A hand-held imaging system, which combines a low coherence interferometry (LCI) technique for single-point thickness measurement, with video-otoscopy for recording the image of the TM, was used to collect the data used in this study. Data were acquired by pointing the imaging probe over different regions of the TM, while simultaneously recording the LCI and concomitant TM surface video image data from an average of 500 locations on the TM. TM thickness distribution maps were obtained by mapping the LCI imaging sites onto an anatomically accurate wide-field image of the TM, which was generated by mosaicking the sequence of multiple small field-of-view video-otoscopy images. Descriptive statistics of the thickness measurements obtained from the different regions of the TM are presented, and the general thickness distribution trends are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)403-416
Number of pages14
JournalJARO - Journal of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • image registration
  • low coherence interferometry
  • mosaic
  • optical coherence tomography
  • tympanic membrane thickness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology
  • Sensory Systems


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