The goal of our work is to understand sound transmission in normal, diseased and reconstructed middle ears so as to develop better diagnostic tests and surgical procedures for patients with middle-ear disease. Middle ear diseases, such as chronic otitis media and otosclerosis, which affect over 30 million people in the U.S., are common causes of significant conductive hearing loss that range in severity up to 60 dB. Hearing losses of 30-60 dB have significant adverse effects on patients' lives and their ability to communicate. Many aspects of middle ear sound transmission are not well understood. Additionally, hearing results after certain types of middle-ear surgical procedures (especially for chronic otitis media) are often unsatisfactory, because the structural factors that are important for good hearing results are not all that clear. Over the past 10 years, we have utilized a unique and powerful combination of methods to study middle-ear mechanics including in-vivo measurements using laser Doppler vibrometry, in-vitro measurements in cadaveric human temporal bones, and physics-based, quantitative modeling. Our work has a) provided insight into mechanisms of conductive hearing loss caused by a variety of pathologies affecting the middle- and inner- ears, b) resulted in new diagnostic concepts, and c) provided specific surgical recommendations to optimize postoperative hearing results in certain types of middle-ear surgical procedures. Over the next five years, we aim to exploit these methods and use new tools such as external-ear acoustic reflectance and laser holography of motion of the tympanic membrane in order to: a) investigate correlations between ear canal reflectance and umbo velocity in normal and pathologic ears, b) define critical structural features that determine postoperative hearing results in aerated ears after ossicular reconstructions, and c) investigate use of a novel implant to improve post-surgical hearing results in non-aerated ears. We anticipate that our work will lead to better understanding of structure-function relationships in normal and pathological middle ears, improved differential diagnosis of conductive hearing loss, and optimization of surgical techniques and hearing results.

Public Health Relevance

Middle ear diseases such as chronic otitis media and otosclerosis, which affect over 30 million people in the United States, often result in significant conductive hearing loss that interferes with the ability to communicate. The goal of our research is to understand sound transmission in normal and diseased middle ears, and to develop better diagnostic tests and surgical procedures for patients with middle-ear disease.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD)
Research Project (R01)
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Auditory System Study Section (AUD)
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Watson, Bracie
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Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary
United States
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Rosowski, John J; Bowers, Peter; Nakajima, Hideko H (2018) Limits on normal cochlear 'third' windows provided by previous investigations of additional sound paths into and out of the cat inner ear. Hear Res 360:3-13
Merchant, Gabrielle R; Merchant, Saumil N; Rosowski, John J et al. (2016) Controlled exploration of the effects of conductive hearing loss on wideband acoustic immittance in human cadaveric preparations. Hear Res 341:19-30
Farahmand, Rosemary B; Merchant, Gabrielle R; Lookabaugh, Sarah A et al. (2016) The Audiometric and Mechanical Effects of Partial Ossicular Discontinuity. Ear Hear 37:206-15
Cheng, Yew Song; Kozin, Elliott D; Remenschneider, Aaron K et al. (2016) Characteristics of Wax Occlusion in the Surgical Repair of Superior Canal Dehiscence in Human Temporal Bone Specimens. Otol Neurotol 37:83-8
Creighton, Francis Pete X; Guan, Xiying; Park, Steve et al. (2016) An Intracochlear Pressure Sensor as a Microphone for a Fully Implantable Cochlear Implant. Otol Neurotol 37:1596-1600
Niesten, Marlien E F; Stieger, Christof; Lee, Daniel J et al. (2015) Assessment of the effects of superior canal dehiscence location and size on intracochlear sound pressures. Audiol Neurootol 20:62-71
Merchant, Gabrielle R; Röösli, Christof; Niesten, Marlien E F et al. (2015) Power reflectance as a screening tool for the diagnosis of superior semicircular canal dehiscence. Otol Neurotol 36:172-7
Ravicz, Michael E; Chien, Wade W; Rosowski, John J (2015) Restoration of middle-ear input in fluid-filled middle ears by controlled introduction of air or a novel air-filled implant. Hear Res 328:8-23
Ulku, Cagatay Han; Cheng, Jeffrey Tao; Guignard, Jeremie et al. (2014) Comparisons of the mechanics of partial and total ossicular replacement prostheses with cartilage in a cadaveric temporal bone preparation. Acta Otolaryngol 134:776-84
Niesten, Marlien E F; Hamberg, Leena M; Silverman, Joshua B et al. (2014) Superior canal dehiscence length and location influences clinical presentation and audiometric and cervical vestibular-evoked myogenic potential testing. Audiol Neurootol 19:97-105

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