Analytical and numerical modeling of the hearing system: Advances towards the assessment of hearing damage

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Abstract

Hearing is an extremely complex phenomenon, involving a large number of interrelated variables that are difficult to measure in vivo. In order to investigate such process under simplified and well-controlled conditions, models of sound transmission have been developed through many decades of research. The value of modeling the hearing system is not only to explain the normal function of the hearing system and account for experimental and clinical observations, but to simulate a variety of pathological conditions that lead to hearing damage and hearing loss, as well as for development of auditory implants, effective ear protections and auditory hazard countermeasures. In this paper, we provide a review of the strategies used to model the auditory function of the external, middle, inner ear, and the micromechanics of the organ of Corti, along with some of the key results obtained from such modeling efforts. Recent analytical and numerical approaches have incorporated the nonlinear behavior of some parameters and structures into their models. Few models of the integrated hearing system exist; in particular, we describe the evolution of the Auditory Hazard Assessment Algorithm for Human (AHAAH) model, used for prediction of hearing damage due to high intensity sound pressure. Unlike the AHAAH model, 3D finite element models of the entire hearing system are not able yet to predict auditory risk and threshold shifts. It is expected that both AHAAH and FE models will evolve towards a more accurate assessment of threshold shifts and hearing loss under a variety of stimuli conditions and pathologies.

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