Mechanical properties of human tympanic membrane in the quasi-static regime from in situ point indentation measurements.
ABSTRACT The tympanic membrane is a key component of the human auditory apparatus. Good estimates of tympanic membrane mechanical properties are important to obtain realistic models of middle ear mechanics. Current literature values are almost all derived from direct mechanical tests on cut-out strips. For a biomedical specimen like the tympanic membrane, it is not always possible to harvest strips of uniform and manageable geometry and well-defined size suitable for such mechanical tests. In this work, elastic and viscoelastic properties of human tympanic membrane were determined through indentation testing on the tympanic membrane in situ. Indentation experiments were performed on three specimens with a custom-built apparatus that was also used in previously published works. Two types of indentation tests were performed on each specimen: (i) sinusoidal indentation at 0.2 Hz yielding the quasi-static Young's modulus and (ii) step indentation tests yielding viscoelastic properties in the quasi-static regime (0-20 Hz). In the cyclic indentation experiments (type i), the indentation depth and resulting needle force were recorded. The unloaded shape of the tympanic membrane and the membrane thickness were measured and used to create a specimen-specific finite element model of the experiment. The Young's modulus was then found through optimization of the error between model and experimental data; the values that were found for the three different samples are 2.1 MPa, 4.4 MPa and 2.3 MPa. A sensitivity analysis showed that these values are very sensitive to the thickness used in the models. In the step indentation tests (type ii), force relaxation was measured during 120 s and the relaxation curves were fitted with a 5 parameter Maxwell viscoelastic model. The relaxation curves in the time domain were transformed to complex moduli in the frequency domain, yielding viscoelastic properties in the quasi-static regime only.