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Open Access Measurement of Slow Nanometer Movements in the Living Inner Ear

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This article is Open Access under the terms of the Creative Commons CC BY licence.

We present a novel technique for measuring sub-micrometre movements in the fluid-filled inner ear, using changes in the resistance of a saline-filled glass micropipette that passes through the middle ear and round window to touch inner ear structures of interest (including the basilar membrane). Our goal was to monitor slow mechanical changes to study cochlear autoregulation. The resistance-displacement transfer function of the microelectrode probe was approximately exponential, with a pseudo-linear range of many hundreds of nanometers. To eliminate mechanical drift, the animal's skull was stabilized using analog PID (proportional integral derivative) feedback, so that the noise floor of in vivo skull displacement was less than 10 nm peak to peak (broadband, raw trace), or much less than 1 nm using filtering or spectral analysis. The skull actuator also allowed landing of the electrode with sub-micrometre accuracy under electronic control, and a sinusoidal vertical skull movement ('the pilot') that served as a mechanical calibration. A novel ventilator was also developed using a subwoofer speaker to minimize breathing and pulse artifact. Examples of acoustic movements in the middle and inner ears are presented, including very slow movements of the basilar membrane in response to low-frequency tones.

© 2018 The Author(s). Published by S. Hirzel Verlag · EAA. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY 4.0) license (

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: September 1, 2018

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  • Acta Acustica united with Acustica, published together with the European Acoustics Association (EAA), is an international, peer-reviewed journal on acoustics. It publishes original articles on all subjects in the field of acoustics, such as general linear acoustics, nonlinear acoustics, macrosonics, flow acoustics, atmospheric sound, underwater sound, ultrasonics, physical acoustics, structural acoustics, noise control, active control, environmental noise, building acoustics, room acoustics, acoustic materials, acoustic signal processing, computational and numerical acoustics, hearing, audiology and psychoacoustics, speech, musical acoustics, electroacoustics, auditory quality of systems. It reports on original scientific research in acoustics and on engineering applications. The journal considers scientific papers, technical and applied papers, book reviews, short communications, doctoral thesis abstracts, etc. In irregular intervals also special issues and review articles are published.
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