Researchers have created a new device that may be instrumental in creating the next generation of hearing aids. And the tiny animal that helped them do it? A fly.
Wondering what a fly has to do with hearing aids? Insects usually aren’t good at pinpointing the source of a sound because their bodies are so small that the sound hits both of their ears at just about the same time. But a certain fly- Ormia ochracea- has a unique sound-processing mechanism that adjusts for this, and the fly is incredibly accurate at determining the source of sounds.
Researchers have replicated the fly’s hearing mechanism in the form of a device that is only 2 mm wide. Many hearing aid users have problems sorting out noises, and this technology may be able to improve directional hearing aids and help users determine the direction of the sound much more accurately. Read more about it here:
By using a device that provides high-resolution images of the inner ear, researchers are learning about the mechanics of hearing. In order to develop therapies for hearing loss, it’s important to understand the functions of different areas of the cochlea, and until now, that hasn’t been very easy.
Because the cochlea is so small and difficult to access, researchers haven’t been able to study it very easily without causing damage to the ear. But by using this technology (OCT, or optical coherence tomography), researchers at Texas A&M and Stanford have been able to gather information about the way the cochlea converts vibrations into nerve impulses to create sound without having to open the bone around it.
The concept has been proven in mice, and researchers have been able to gather measurements without causing any damage to the mouse cochlea or surrounding tissues. A prototype device has been developed for human use. If researchers can map the human cochlea and determine what happens to the inner ear during progressive or traumatic loss, it’s possible that specific therapies for hearing loss will be able to be developed! Read more about it here: