Impedances of the inner and middle ear estimated from intracochlear sound pressures in normal human temporal bones

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Abstract

For almost a decade, we have measured intracochlear sound pressures evoked by air conducted (AC) sound presented to the ear canal in many fresh human cadaveric specimens. Similar measurements were also obtained during round window (RW) mechanical stimulation in multiple specimens. In the present study, we use our accumulated data of intracochlear pressures and simultaneous velocity measurements of the stapes or RW to determine acoustic impedances of the cochlear partition, RW, and the leakage paths from scala vestibuli and scala tympani, as well as the reverse middle ear impedance. With these impedances, we develop a computational lumped-element model of the normal ear that illuminates fundamental mechanisms of sound transmission.

To calculate the impedances for our model, we use data that passes strict inclusion criteria of: (a) normal middle-ear transfer function defined as the ratio of stapes velocity to ear-canal sound pressure, (b) no evidence of air within the inner ear, and (c) tight control of the pressure sensor sensitivity. After this strict screening, updated normal means, as well as individual representative data, of ossicular velocities and intracochlear pressures for AC and RW stimulation are used to calculate impedances. This work demonstrates the existence and the value of physiological acoustic leak impedances that can sometimes contribute significantly to sound transmission for some stimulation modalities. This model allows understanding of human sound transmission mechanisms for various sound stimulation methods such as AC, RW, and bone conduction, as well as sound transmission related to otoacoustic emissions.

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