In January of 2019, Science Daily cited research by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)* regarding the “mechanism” of our ear’s ability to pick up even faint sounds. “The human ear… can detect sound-wave-induced vibrations of the eardrum that move by less than the width of an atom.” Researchers found that “both the ear’s sensitivity and its selectivity – the ability to distinguish different frequencies of sound – depend crucially on the behavior of a minuscule gelatinous structure in the inner ear called the tectorial membrane…”
The article explains that the membrane is on top of the tiny hairs that line the inner ear (cochlea). The hairs are arranged in tufts that are sensitive to different frequencies of sound. The tips of those hairs are embedded in the tectorial membrane. The researchers determined that “the way the gel membrane gives our hearing its extreme sensitivity has to do with the size, stiffness, and distribution of nanoscale pores in that membrane, and the way those nanopores control the movement of water with the gel.”
The researchers hope that a better understanding of the actual mechanisms of hearing can help lead to ways to counteract certain hearing impairments.
The Listening Stack prides itself in trying to keep up with the latest research and technologies to ensure the best support for its clients with hearing loss.
*Massachusetts Institute of Technology. "Mechanism helps explain the ear's exquisite sensitivity: A critical gel-like structure in the inner ear moves according to a sound's frequency, researchers find." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 January 2019. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/01/190116110945.htm>.