The primary objective of this research is to further our understanding of the mechanics of the healthy cochlea. A secondary objective is to understand how sound is transmitted through the healthy middle ear. To attain these objectives we use two powerful experimental techniques: intracochlear pressure measurements and interferometric measurements of intracochlear and middle ear motion. Specific experiments measure sound transmission within the cochlea to explore the interaction between the cochlea's active mechanics and the cochlear traveling wave, and sound transmission between the cochlea and the ear canal to determine how the middle ear filters cochlear emissions. Other experiments will measure detailed motion of the cochlea's basilar membrane;subtle spatial variations could reveal the operation of the cell- based forces that shape cochlear tuning. In order to understand the passive substrate for cochlear tuning, upon which the interesting """"""""active"""""""" cell-based forces must build, one experiment will measure the stiffness and resistance of the cochlea's basilar membrane and organ of Corti in situ, another will measure tuning in cochleae in which the organ of Corti was ototoxically damaged. Finally, one experiment will trace the source of the observed middle ear transmission delay. The measurements are aimed at understanding the mechanics of the normal cochlea and middle ear. Nevertheless, they are significant to the treatment of the hearing impaired. While cochlear implants have been breathtakingly successful, a divide remains between the functional hearing available with an implant and the natural auditory experience of music, language, and nature. To decrease this divide, cochlear implants and hearing aids continue to be improved and a better understanding of the natural processing of the cochlea will benefit this work. Beyond implants and aids, the promise of repairing the organ of Corti through therapies that regenerate or repair cochlear hair cells is very exciting, and the understanding of the normal mechanics will help guide these advances. In the case of the middle ear, surgical therapies are available but are not always successful. Better understanding the transmission of sound through the middle ear is one of the goals of this proposal, and gaining that knowledge could influence its surgical repair.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-IFCN-A (94))
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Donahue, Amy
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Columbia University (N.Y.)
Schools of Medicine
New York
United States
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Milazzo, Mario; Fallah, Elika; Carapezza, Michael et al. (2017) The path of a click stimulus from ear canal to umbo. Hear Res 346:1-13
Wang, Yi; Olson, Elizabeth S (2016) Cochlear perfusion with a viscous fluid. Hear Res 337:1-11
Dong, Wei; Olson, Elizabeth S (2016) Two-Tone Suppression of Simultaneous Electrical and Mechanical Responses in the Cochlea. Biophys J 111:1805-1815
Kale, Sushrut S; Olson, Elizabeth S (2015) Intracochlear Scala Media Pressure Measurement: Implications for Models of Cochlear Mechanics. Biophys J 109:2678-88
Kale, Sushrut; Cervantes, Vanessa M; Wu, Mailing R et al. (2014) A novel perfusion-based method for cochlear implant electrode insertion. Hear Res 314:33-41
Bergevin, Christopher; Olson, Elizabeth S (2014) External and middle ear sound pressure distribution and acoustic coupling to the tympanic membrane. J Acoust Soc Am 135:1294-312
Decraemer, W F; de La Rochefoucauld, O; Funnell, W R J et al. (2014) Three-dimensional vibration of the malleus and incus in the living gerbil. J Assoc Res Otolaryngol 15:483-510
Dong, Wei; Varavva, Polina; Olson, Elizabeth S (2013) Sound transmission along the ossicular chain in common wild-type laboratory mice. Hear Res 301:27-34
Dong, Wei; Olson, Elizabeth S (2013) Detection of cochlear amplification and its activation. Biophys J 105:1067-78
Olson, Elizabeth S; Duifhuis, Hendrikus; Steele, Charles R (2012) Von Bekesy and cochlear mechanics. Hear Res 293:31-43

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