Intracochlear pressure measurements during acoustic shock wave exposure

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Abstract

Introduction:

Injuries to the peripheral auditory system are among the most common results of high intensity impulsive acoustic exposure. Prior studies of high intensity sound transmission by the ossicular chain have relied upon measurements in animal models, measurements at more moderate sound levels (i.e.<130dB SPL), and/or measured responses to steady-state noise. Here, we directly measure intracochlear pressure in human cadaveric temporal bones, with fiber optic pressure sensors placed in scala vestibuli (SV) and tympani (ST), during exposure to shock waves with peak positive pressures between ˜7 and 83kPa.

Methods:

Eight full-cephalic human cadaver heads were exposed, face-on, to acoustic shock waves in a 45cm diameter shock tube. Specimens were exposed to impulses with nominal peak overpressures of 7, 28, 55, & 83kPa (171, 183, 189, & 192dB pSPL), measured in the free field adjacent to the forehead. Specimens were prepared bilaterally by mastoidectomy and extended facial recess to expose the ossicular chain. Ear canal (EAC), middle ear, and intracochlear sound pressure levels were measured with fiber-optic pressure sensors. Surface-mounted sensors measured SPL and skull strain near the opening of each EAC and at the forehead.

Results:

Measurements on the forehead showed incident peak pressures approximately twice that measured by adjacent free-field and EAC entrance sensors, as expected based on the sensor orientation (normal vs tangential to the shock wave propagation). At 7kPa, EAC pressure showed gain, calculated from the frequency spectra, consistent with the ear canal resonance, and gain in the intracochlear pressures (normalized to the EAC pressure) were consistent with (though somewhat lower than) previously reported middle ear transfer functions. Responses to higher intensity impulses tended to show lower intracochlear gain relative to EAC, suggesting sound transmission efficiency along the ossicular chain is reduced at high intensities. Tympanic membrane (TM) rupture was observed following nearly every exposure 55kPa or higher.

Conclusions:

Intracochlear pressures reveal lower middle-ear transfer function magnitudes (i.e. reduced gain relative to the ear canal) for high sound pressure levels, thus revealing lower than expected cochlear exposure based on extrapolation from cochlear pressures measured at more moderate sound levels. These results are consistent with lowered transmissivity of the ossicular chain at high intensities, and are consistent with our prior report measuring middle ear transfer functions in human cadaveric temporal bones with high intensity tone pips.

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