The response of the tympanic membrane (TM) to transient environmental sounds and the contributions of different parts of the TM to middle-ear sound transmission were investigated by measuring the TM response to global transients (acoustic clicks) and to local transients (mechanical impulses) applied to the umbo and various locations on the TM. A lightly-fixed human temporal bone was prepared by removing the ear canal, inner ear, and stapes, leaving the incus, malleus, and TM intact. Motion of nearly the entire TM was measured by a digital holography system with a high speed camera at a rate of 42 000 frames per second, giving a temporal resolution of <24 μs for the duration of the TM response. The entire TM responded nearly instantaneously to acoustic transient stimuli, though the peak displacement and decay time constant varied with location. With local mechanical transients, the TM responded first locally at the site of stimulation, and the response spread approximately symmetrically and circumferentially around the umbo and manubrium. Acoustic and mechanical transients provide distinct and complementary stimuli for the study of TM response. Spatial variations in decay and rate of spread of response imply local variations in TM stiffness, mass, and damping.