Simultaneous 3D imaging of sound-induced motions of the tympanic membrane and middle ear ossicles

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Efficient transfer of sound by the middle ear ossicles is essential for hearing. Various pathologies can impede the transmission of sound and thereby cause conductive hearing loss. Differential diagnosis of ossicular disorders can be challenging since the ossicles are normally hidden behind the tympanic membrane (TM). Here we describe the use of a technique termed optical coherence tomography (OCT) vibrography to view the sound-induced motion of the TM and ossicles simultaneously. With this method, we were able to capture three-dimensional motion of the intact TM and ossicles of the chinchilla ear with nanometer-scale sensitivity at sound frequencies from 0.5 to 5 kHz. The vibration patterns of the TM were complex and highly frequency dependent with mean amplitudes of 70–120 nm at 100 dB sound pressure level. The TM motion was only marginally sensitive to stapes fixation and incus-stapes joint interruption; however, when additional information derived from the simultaneous measurement of ossicular motion was added, it was possible to clearly distinguish these different simulated pathologies. The technique may be applicable to clinical diagnosis in Otology and to basic research in audition and acoustics.

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