H. Hudde
Institut fiir Kommunikationsakustik RUB-lKA Labor fUr Schall-und SchwingungsmeStechnik, Ruhr-Universitat Bochum, Ie 1/132, D-44780
Bochum, Germany
A. Engel
St. Elisabeth-Hospital, HNO-Klinik der Ruhr-Universitat Bochum, Bleichstr. 15, D-44787 Bochum, Germany
Dedicated to Prof Dr.-Ing. Dr. techno h.c. lens Blauert on the occasion of his 60. birthday
Summary
This is the first of a three part paper dealing with the acoustical and mechanical properties of the middle ear. As a
functional description of the middle ear cannot be separated from that of the ear canal, the external ear is also considered,
but regarding only the sound field inside the ear canal, not outside the head. The cochlea also has to be taken into
account to provide a complete description, but only with respect to its input impedance, because it has the function
of a load impedance of the middle ear. All the measurements (the original data are always complex transfer functions
depending on frequency) were taken using fresh human temporal bones. An attempt was made to obtain all the data
necessary to develop a one-dimensional model representing the "basic" functions of the middle ear and ear canal, i.
e. those functions that are predicted by the one-dimensional model. In reality many fluctuations caused by varying
vibrational modes occur. The measurements indicate that it is actually reasonable to assume a basic function which
is superimposed by fluctuations. Thus a fairly comprehensive understanding of the "basic" effects of the middle ear
and ear canal can be achieved and described by a one-dimensional model. Most elements of the simple model can be
quantified on the basis of the measurements. Some elements (the joint impedances and some elements of the stapes and
cochlea) are estimated on the basis of the measurements, or chosen from within a plausible range. The model reflects
our present knowledge, but may be subject to changes if further measurements are performed in the future.
The organization of the three parts is as follows. In this first paper (I) the "philosophy" of modeling and measuring
is presented. Modeling and measuring together form a whole in that the model comprises solely measurable elements
and all the measuring procedures refer to the model. The basic model structure, which is then extended to include
more detailed circuits in the following parts, is given. Particular attention is paid to the "drum coupling region" at the
end of the ear canal, because this notion considerably influences our measuring techniques. The equipment and its
application is described in part I. Part II [I] gives a complete survey of all the parts of the middle and external ear which
are considered to contribute to the basic function. The corresponding blocks of the model are investigated separately,
assuming a one-port (measuring an impedance) or a two-port (measuring a chain-matrix). The equipment used consists
of an acoustical measuring tube (sound pressure, volume velocity and acoustical impedance), a mechanical measuring
head (force, velocity, and mechanical impedance), a fiber-optic displacement sensor and a hydrophone for picking
up the vestibular sound pressure. The transfer functions and impedances were measured by means of a four-channel
spectrum analyzer, mostly in a frequency range from 160 Hz to 16 kHz. However, due to noise and systematical errors
the upper frequency limit is often lower, usually about 10kHz, but in some cases even about 5 kHz. The measurements
comprise the ear canal (external radiation impedance, propagation losses, and the "drum coupling region"), the tympanic
cavity and the antrum, the "kernel" (the "heart" of the middle ear, consisting of the drum, the malleus, and the incus
including their suspensions), and the stapes and cochlea. In part III [2] the external and middle ear are considered as a
whole, i. e., the subsystems presented in part II are put together. This is done by calculation (using the model) and by
measurement. In this way frequency responses were measured which are redundant with respect to the measurements
presented in part II. The functions are eardrum impedances measured using different conditions and transfer functions
of the middle ear in both directions. Actually all the measurements of parts II and III together were used to derive the
element values of the model. Therefore the model does not always approximate the measured frequency responses of
subsystems in an optimum way. The values are chosen to simultaneously match all the measurements as accurately
as possible. In addition, some model calculations are given in part III which show further interesting details that have
not been measured directly. The model is completely documented in the appendix of part III. It has a form that can be
simply transferred into a computer program by anybody who is interested in doing so. The frequency range of validity
depends on the function to be predicted. In general, the model can be applied up to about 10kHz.
PACS no. 43.64.0a, 43.64.Bt, 43.20.Ye, 43.58.Bh
1. Measuring and modeling "basic" properties tion - to effectively transduce sound from the air in the ear
canal to the water-like lymphatic liquids in the cochlea - is
Compared to the inner ear the middle ear and the ear canal quite obvious. So the middle ear, which is the central object
are fairly simple parts of the hearing organ. The basic func- of our investigations, is often said to be an impedance trans-
former matching the wave impedances Zw = pc (p: density,
c: sound velocity) of the different media. However, it has
Received 7 May 1997, become apparent that this notion is only a very crude inter-
accepted 10 November 1997.
ACUSTICA . acta acustica
Vol. 84 (1998) Hudde and Engel: Middle ear properties (part I) 721
pretation. When assessed as an impedance transformer, the area Ax and of the pressure Pc within the whole vestibule.
middle ear function is rather poor. The middle ear best ap- In both cases the one-dimensionality is a product of the
proximates an ideal transformer in the mid-frequency range. geometrical dimensions, which are small compared to the
It is necessary to consider the "acoustomechanical system" acoustical wave length in the full audio range up to 20 kHz.
in much more detail to reach a better understanding. Basic In the ear canal only the lateral dimensions (the diameters) are
research on the middle ear is guided by two interconnected small enough. Therefore in the longitudinal direction (middle
approaches. (a) The vibrations and forces occuring in the axis of the ear canal) wave effects occur, which are best
middle ear are modeled mathematically. (b) The acoustome- described as an acoustical transmission line. In the vestibule
chanical properties are investigated by means of appropriate all the dimensions are small. Therefore even a description
measuring techniques. Although the logical order of mea sur- using lumped elements is possible. Consequently only the
ing and modeling is quite obviously to measure first and then piston-like fraction of the stapes movement contributes to
to model on the basis of the data collected, modeling has often the pressure Pc, except if a point very close to the footplate
been attempted despite incomplete data. We believe this is is considered.
not a fault, but actually reasonable. Measuring and modeling The one-dimensionality of the input and output of the sys-
must be combined. Many meaningful measuring procedures tem does not justify the assumption that there must be a one-
can only be defined if the system investigated is not seen as dimensional system in between. Changes in the fundamental
an entirely unknown "black box". Instead special features of mode boundary conditions on both sides of the system can
the system that are already known should be established in have an impact on all the vibrational modes in the middle ear.
the structure of the underlying model. For the investigations On the other hand the conditions do not vary to such an ex-
presented in this paper we use a one-dimensional, linear, tent that this aspect becomes really important. Hence if only
time-invariant system, although the middle ear does not ac- the over-all transmission from the ear canal to the vestibule
tually meet any of these requirements. The reasons for using is to be examined, a one-dimensional model would suffice.
these simplifications will be discussed in the following. The situation changes when the vibrations within the middle
One-dimensionality means that each acoustical and me- ear are also considered. Here the use of a one-dimensional
chanical quantity at any relevant location can be represented model is justified only if it represents the "basic" vibrations.
by a single component with sufficient accuracy. In the case What is meant by "basic" will be elucidated in the following
of small vibrations this does not mean that the mode of vi- and will become clearer when the results in parts II and III
bration must be identical everywhere. For instance, a rota- are discussed.
tional movement of the incus and a translational movement In detail the vibrations in the middle ear are subject to
of the stapes can be combined in a one-dimensional model. strong interindividual changes. But it is obvious that not ev-
However, mixed types of vibrations, as reported by many ery detail of the irregular movements is actually important
investigators (e. g., [3]) require a multi-dimensional model. for an investigation of the middle ear function. Therefore it
The three-dimensionality of the movements is a direct seems to be reasonable to distinguish between "basic" move-
consequence of the biological type of the object: there are ments governing the one-dimensional input-output transmis-
no exact bearings to guide the movements. As a result the sion and additional "irregular" movements. The applicability
movements become increasingly irregular with frequency. of this notion cannot be examined by investigating the mid-
In technical systems such movements are unacceptable as a dle ear theoretically, but by evaluating a sufficient number of
rule. Therefore an engineer tends to postulate approximate relevant measurements.
one-dimensional movements. However, the observations ob- This task is not as strictly specified as prooving a hypoth-
tained using laser-interferometrical methods have revealed esis. The one-dimensional middle ear model can be deemed
that the deviations from one- dimensional movements can be adequate if all its predictions agree within a certain range
huge, particularly near certain resonances and generally at of tolerance, whereby the corresponding results are obtained
high frequencies. The consequences arising from the irregu- using only one fixed set of element values. In that case the
lar movements will not be discussed in this paper. To study model predictions reflect the "basic" behavior. The choice
the effect of such movements, we use a three-dimensional of the model structure and element values is not unique.
model [4] which is still being developed. There is some ev- Furthermore, there is no exact specification for separating
idence that the irregularity has even positive effects on the the movements into "basic" and "irregular" ones. A certain
middle ear properties. model is justified solely by predicting all the relevant transfer
So, what is the use of a one-dimensional model as de- functions in general agreement with corresponding measure-
veloped in this paper? One important argument is the one- ments.
dimensionality of the acoustical fields in the middle section It is important to note that from a practical point of view
of the ear canal and in the vestibule behind the stapes foot- a comprehensive investigation of the middle ear using three-
plate. Therefore the acoustomechanical system in between dimensional measurements is hardly viable. Recording gen-
relates one-dimensional quantities, namely the sound pres- eral mixed translational-rotational vibrations would necessi-
sure P x and the volume velocity qx in a cross-sectional area tate measuring three spatial components at at least two points
Ax in the ear canal to the cochlea input pressure Pc and the of a rigid body. The situation becomes even more compli-
volume velocity qc in the vestibule. The one-dimensionality cated if the forces are also measured, because forces cannot
is established by the invariability of the pressure p x on the be measured without mechanical contact. A force sensor can
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722 Hudde and Engel: Middle ear properties (part I) Vol. 84 (1998)
only measure a certain mode of vibration. Different modes formed using commercially available equipment, so some
must be studied consecutively. Furthermore the attachment special devices had to be developed in our laboratory. An
of a force sensor always changes the mode of the move- acoustical measuring tube (AMT) was built to measure the
ment, except when the vibration is really one-dimensional. sound pressure and volume velocity (and thereby also the
On the other hand, measuring only vibrations cannot provide acoustical impedance Zac) in an area in front of the eardrum.
complete information about a system. To obtain impedances With a mechanical measuring head (MMH) the force and
from pure vibration measurements, additional assumptions velocity (and thereby the mechanical impedance Zmech) at
concerning the system have to be made. a point can be determined. Vibrations were measured as dis-
Three-dimensional effects do not only arise in the mid- placements ~ by means of a fiber-optic displacement sensor
dle ear, but also in the innnermost section of the ear canal (ODS). The hydroacoustic sound pressure p in the vestibule
where the acoustical wave interacts with the vibrations of the was measured using a custom-made hydrophone.
ear drum. We call this section the "drum coupling region" The results recorded by various investigators have been
(DCR). The notion of the DCR considerably influences the condensed into various one- dimensional circuit models
way acoustical measurements at the eardrum are performed. [10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16]. Although there are more re-
Therefore the underlying assumptions of the DCR are exten- cent models, we mainly use the model given by Shaw and
sively examined in section 2.2. Stinson 1981 [11] as a reference, because it has a physically
The assumption of linearity is mostly violated in the motivated structure which compares favorable to the one in
cochlea. At very low levels the impedance has to be re- our model. As far as possible all of our measurements are
placed by a nonlinear sound source with a nonlinear internal compared to Shaw's model predictions. In other cases or if
impedance so that the active function of the outer hair cells more recent findings exist, the data of other authors are also
is taken into account. Also the middle ear itself is not linear. included in the figures for comparison.
There are two muscles which can vary the mechanical pa-
rameters of the system. At least the tensor stapedii responds
to auditive stimuli at higher levels ("acoustic reflex") and in- 2. Model structure
creases the effective stiffness of the annular ligament around
the stapes (while changing its position). Little is known about One-dimensional linear time-invariant acoustomechanical
the dynamic properties of the two joints between the ossi- systems can be represented by equivalent electrical circuits.
cles, but we do know that the dynamic vibrations at low levels The model structure must allow all the conditions used in the
differ totally from larger movements at static pressures [5]. various measurements to be simulated. In the next section a
Thus the linear middle ear model should be seen as a low basic structure, which describes the model in terms of a few
level model which has to be extended by nonlinear elements partial systems and an equivalent sound source, is given. The
if higher levels are to be examined. Time-variations of the partial systems are one-ports (impedances) linking the two
properties of the temporal bone preparations are a major acoustical or mechanical quantities at that port, and two-ports
problem. It is very important to keep the preparation perma- which connect the two input and output quantities on both
nently wet. But also in natural circumstances the middle ear sides.
parameters vary with time, e.g., due to swallowing or yawn- In the following sections the contents of the two-ports are
ing, or due to the stapedius reflex. Particular problems arise specified in more detail and necessary assumptions are clari-
if functions are calculated from data which have not been fied. Further elements providing additional details within the
simultaneously measured. Therefore we used a four-channel frame of the basic structure will be introduced in parts II and
frequency analyzer. However, more than four channels were III, so that the measured results can be approximated as far as
sometimes needed. In these cases the measurements had to possible by means of standard circuit elements. In some cases
be performed consecutively. several element modifications will be necessary to match the
A recent review of the available data on the middle ear of data. These modifications preserve an approximate lumped
humans and animals was given by Rosowski [6]. He also pro- element description of the eardrum mechanics although con-
vided a comprehensive list of publications on the middle ear. tinuum effects arise. The complete model, including all the
Rosowski gave information on various aspects of the middle details and element values, is documented in the appendix of
ear, but he also ascertained a general lack of data. Similarly, part III.
Shera and Zweig noted that "measurements are incomplete
and middle-ear transmission not well understood". In a series
2. I . General circuit structure
of papers [7,8,9] they developed a systematical description
of how the middle ear behavior can be treated mathemati- The equivalent electrical circuits are based on the analogy
cally. One of the goals of their "framework" was to provide of electrical and acoustical or mechanical relationships. To
a basis for measurements. avoid misunderstandings some definitions and features of the
With respect to modeling, our intention is very similar, but analogies are briefly summarized in the following.
we focus on actually measuring the elements of the model. The analogous relationships between acoustical and elec-
Of course, a complete set of data cannot be deduced from trical circuits are best described by treating the sound pres-
in-vivo measurements. Therefore we exclusively used tempo- sure p as analogous to the voltage u, and the volume velocity
ral bone preparations. The measurements could not be per- q as analogous to the current i (the alternative choice has only
ACUSTICA· acta acustica
Vol. 84 (1998) Hudde and Engel: Middle ear properties (part I) 723
disadvantages). In the theory of linear circuits the complex and D relates input and output as follows:
notation calculus is usually applied. This means that all the
quantities are expressed by their complex amplitudes (mag-
nitude and phase) as a function of frequency. The complex
quotient of P/ q is called an acoustical impedance Z ac and is It is not the pressure P D in front of the drum that determines
analogous to the electrical impedance Zel = u/i. An acous- the force generated at the drum, but the pressure difference
tical impedance is associated with an area A. Therefore the 61p between both sides of the drum. The pressure just be-
pressure p has to be constant on this area A if an acoustical hind the drum is just as variable as in front of the drum.
impedance is to be defined. The volume velocity q is the To preserve the one-dimensionality of the model, a suitable
integral of the particle velocity taken over the same area A effective pressure Pcav at the rear of the drum has to be as-
(scalar vector product). sumed. This pressure is the input of the acoustical load Zcav
In mechanical one-dimensional systems the vibrations re- given by the middle ear cavities. The pressure difference at
fer to a reference point instead of to an area. We treat the the drum is modeled by a mesh in Figure I representing the
movements as being purely translational, using the point relation
velocity v and the force F transmitted at the point. If the
61p = PD - Pcav· (2)
movement is rotational in reality, it has to be assumed that
the distance d between the rotational axis and the reference The corresponding port is denoted by 61. The volume velocity
point is large enough to ensure an approximately translational at this port flowing into Zcav is identical to the drum volume
movement. Then the torque M and the rotational velocity W velocity qD.
can be converted into a force F = M / d and into a transla- The next port I of our model corresponds to the processus
tional velocity v = 0.d respectively. lenticularis of the long process of the incus. This means that
Again there are two possibilities for defining pairs of anal- we treat the eardrum, the malleus and the incus including
ogous electrical (u, i) and mechanical (F, v) quantities. For the suspension by ligaments and the tensor tympani, and the
the electromechanical analogy both possibilities are actually incudomalleal joint as a unit without using further measuring
in use. We prefer to treat the force F as analogous to the points in between. This part is the very heart of the middle
current i, and the velocity v as analogous to the voltage u. ear and therefore refered to as the "kernel".
This preserves the structure of a circuit when it is converted Of course, it would be desirable to specify further measur-
from the mechanical to the electrical domain, i. e., mechan- ing points within the kernel, for instance, at the umbo (which
ical series connections appear as series connections in the is very often used, because it is so clearly defined and so
electrical circuit, nodes remain nodes, etc. However, if this easily accessible) or somewhere else at the manubrium. But
definition is chosen, mechanical impedances Zmech = F / v in the context of our one-dimensional model these measure-
correspond to electrical admittances Yet = i/u. ments would have little meaning as under natural conditions
no nearby point forces are transmitted at the manubrium. In-
Acoustical and mechanical elements have to be combined
stead the force varies within the manubrium coupling area.
in the model. This is intermediated by a sound collecting or
For this reason a one-dimensional description of the cou-
sound radiating area A which occurs in the form of a gyrator
pling between the eardrum and manubrium is impossible. In
with a gyration constant which equals the area A.
our three-dimensional model we approximate this by imple-
The basic structure of the model used is shown in Figure I. menting a translational force and a torque transmitted at the
A sound wave in the ear canal is excited by a complex external center of the coupling area. For similar reasons the interface
sound field around the head. In spite of many spatial details an between the malleus and incus is not explicitly expressed in
effective source can be assumed to be located at an entrance the model either. As the incudomalleal joint is very rigid (a
area E, because here and in the whole middle part of the ear known fact which is once more confirmed by our own mea-
canal only the fundamental acoustical mode can propagate. surements given in part II), an intact incudomalleal joint can
The source in E is represented by its Thevenin equivalent almost be ignored. This justifies the use of a simple, effective
circuit composed of the internal pressure source PecE and the joint impedance, as will be introduced in part II.
acoustical source impedance ZecE. The impedance equals The kernel two-port K is defined between the acousti-
the radiation impedance of the ear canal at the entrance area cal input (61p, qD) at the drum and the mechanical output
E (out of the ear canal). (FI, VI) at the processus lenticularis (incus). For the sake of
Near the drum the sound field once more becomes com- simplicity, we speak of the incus force and velocity when-
plex, as the vibrations of the drum interact with the sound ever the quantities at the processus lenticularis are meant.
field in front of it. The problem of defining meaningful acous- The kernel chain-matrix, which is also denoted by K, links
tic quantities PD and qD "at the drum" is discussed exten- the acoustical and mechanical quantities at the ports 61 and
sively in the next section. It results in a definition of the DCR I.
(drum coupling region) that has already been mentioned.
For calculations it is convenient to include the DCR in the
two-port between the areas E and D. The two-port can be
represented by various system matrices. We exclusively use The lenticular process is fairly well suited to the task of
the chain-matrix. The ear canal chain-matrix C between E defining a port because the force transmitted to the stapes
ACUSTICA· acta acustica
724 Hudde and Engel: Middle ear properties (part I) Vol. 84 (1998)
E D 1:1
F,
I S
ZecE qE qD Zcav qD Zis Fs
C ~ K s Zc
PecE! !PE PD! !~P !v, vs!
kernel:
drum,
acoustic ear malleus,
source canal incus stapes cochlea
Figure I. General structure of an acoustomechanical circuit describing the sound transmission from the ear canal into the cochlea.
"close to drum", shown in the lower part, the wave fronts changes to the DCR area function. The degree of the impact
are completely different from those found in real conditions. largely depends on the impedances to be transformed. There-
However, the impedance measured "close to the drum" also fore real (measured) impedances in the reference area (ZR)
turned out to be "closer" to the mechanics of the middle ear. and close to the eardrum impedance (ZD) are used for these
Therefore we identify the impedance measured "close calculations, although the measured eardrum impedances
to the drum" with the eardrum impedance Z D from the will not be presented until part III in detail.
DCR concept. In other words, we use the measured eardrum The different curves were produced by applying the DCR
impedances to derive model parameters based on the DCR model to slightly varying area functions. The variations were
model. It is the compatibilty of the measured impedances realized as follows. The reference area AR remained entirely
"close to the drum" and the corresponding results obtained unchanged. The other end of the DCR was also constant
by using the DCR model that justifies the concept. This will because the second part of the DCR tapers to a point. The
be demonstrated in more detail in the following. section in between was described by three sample radii in
At first the application of the DCR model in Figure 2 must equidistant positions. These sample radii were changed by
be clarified. The wave front area running through the umbo up to ± 10%. Each possible combination produced by varying
specifies the "drum area" D and thereby the drum pressure one or more sample radii provides another radius function.
PD. It divides the DCR into two parts. The first part rep- Continuous radius functions were obtained by cubic spline
resents the continuation of the ear canal from R to D. Its interpolation. For both directions the same alterations to the
chain-matrix can be calculated in the same way as the chain- DCR shape were made. The practical experience that in the
matrix between E and R, by applying equation (4) to the area forward direction the transformation is extremely sensitive
function between R and D. The eardrum impedance ZD is to changes of any kind, is fully confirmed. The impedance
modeled as a concentrated shunt impedance in D. Therefore phase is particularly uncertain, even at frequencies of as low
the volume velocity splits up into two parts, qD represent- as 2 kHz. At higher frequencies the phase becomes almost
ing the eardrum impedance, and another part representing random (the phase of a passive impedance is within the lim-
the volume velocity in the wavefront area D. Obviously the its of ±900). If the phase is relevant, the calculated eardrum
remainder of the ear canal between D and the termination impedance can only be used up to 1-2 kHz. The magni-
point T causes a further impedance connected in parallel to tude may be acceptable up to 5 kHz. In the backward di-
Z D. Of course, the last section of the ear canal also has a rection, where the reference impedance is calculated from
chain-matrix, in this case linking the acoustical quantities in the eardrum impedance, the behavior of the transformation
D and T is good-natured. The variations of the DCR produce similar
results being to some extent warped along the frequency axis.
(5) The difference in behavior can be explained as follows:
( ~~) = (~~~~~~). ( ~~) .
In the backward direction the eardrum impedance is trans-
As the volume velocity of the drum is defined to be com-
formed via slightly differing inhomogeneous tubes. It is well-
pletely taken into account by qD, the volume velocity qT in
known that inhomogeneities shift the transmission line res-
the innermost comer of the ear canal vanishes. Therefore the
onant frequencies at multiples of a quarter and half wave
impedance ofthe second section ofthe DCR is Zt = tll / t21.
lengths. But in each case the transformation describes a re-
It has little effect at low frequencies, because it mainly repre-
alizable physical situation. In the forward direction the con-
sents a small volume. For convenience it can be treated as a
ditions are quite different. If the DCR area function used for
part of the two-port relating the reference area R to the drum
the calculation is incorrect, a fictive impedance is calculated
area D (DCR two-port)
which would produce the measured impedance in the case
of the wrong DCR shape. This results in impedances which
(~~) = (~~~~~~). (~~) = D (~~ ) . (6) are "synthetic" and do not correspond to existing acoustome-
chanical systems.
In the model structure of Figure 1 the port T does not occur
explicitly. If needed, the pressure PT can be easily determined As a consequence only the attachment of the acoustical
measuring device "close to the eardrum" can be useful at
frompD according to PT = PD/tll'
It has already been noticed that the transformation of the higher frequencies. It remains to be seen whether this method
reference impedance Z R into the eardrum impedance turned of measuring gives useful results, and whether the DCR
out to be crucial. Therefore it is important to examine the model f~rms a basis from which the impedance "close to the
features of the impedance transformation via the DCR in eardrum", i. e., the eardrum impedance ZD, can be linked to
both directions. The relations are the reference impedance Z R and thereby to the sound field in
the middle section of the ear canal. These two items, the use-
Z _ dllZD + d12 fullness of the eardrum impedance and the correctness of the
R - d21ZD d22 + transformation via the DCR, are examined in the following.
d22ZR - d12
¢:} ZD - ----- (7) When determining a meaningful eardrum impedance Z D
- dll - d21ZR'
it is not necessary to refer to the special device used for
In spite of the similarity of the formulae (bilinear transfor- the measurement. The only condition the device must meet
mations), the transformation characteristics are quite differ- is that all the higher order modes near the drum must have
ent for each direction. Figure 4 shows the impact of small evanesced up to the position of the (first) microphone in
ACUSTICA· aeta aeustiea
Vol. 84 (1998) Hudde and Engel: Middle ear properties (part I) 727
60
ZD
40
normalized magnitude in dB
90 90
the measuring tube. The AMT fulfills this condition. The frequency limit, and the additive phase is often not known.
originally measured impedance Zl at microphone 1 has to be Therefore the minimum phase must only be used in a mid fre-
transformed to the end of the tube and a little further in order quency range, ignoring a possible constant phase difference.
to obtain the eardrum impedance ZD. The transformation Instead of using the integral in equation (8), the Hilbert trans-
length beyond the end of the tube turned out to be a crucial form was numerically calculated using a procedure based on
parameter as it has a considerable impact on the eardrum a Fast Fourier Transform (FFT) analysis [22].
impedances calculated. A surprisingly unique solution was The dependence of the impedance with respect to varia-
found by using the concept of the minimum phase. tions of the assumed position of the drum area D is shown
From general circuit theory it is known that the com- in Figure 5. Magnitudes and phases change greatly if the
plex impedance of a lumped-element circuit has a minimum position is varied. Obviously a criterion for choosing the cor-
phase. This property gets lost if continuum systems are in- rect position of the drum area is essential if a unique eardrum
cluded. As an acoustical duct, like the ear canal, is a contin- impedance is to be obtained. Figure 5 shows that the criterion
uum system, the reference impedance Z R has no minimum "minimum phase" gives a surprisingly well-defined position.
phase. In contrast, the eardrum impedance ZD specifically The optimum transformation length is obtained if the "mea-
represents the middle ear mechanics, which are often approx- sured" phase of the transformed impedance Z D matches the
imated by lumped element circuits. Although the eardrum minimum phase calculated from the magnitude. The right-
itself is a continuum system, it can be assumed that a lumped hand part of Figure 5 shows that the optimal position can be
element model approximates the eardrum impedance, at least found with an accuracy of better than ±O.l mm.
at low and medium frequencies. In fact, our model introduces When applied to eardrum impedances, the position for
some deviations from ordinary circuit elements at higher fre- the best approximation of a minimum phase leads to max-
quencies (see section 4.2 of part II) that destroy the feature imum impedance magnitudes. When searching for the cor-
of a minimum phase. However, it should be possible to find rect position of the eardrum impedance, the criterion "min-
a position in the drum area D where the impedance Z D has imum phase" can be replaced by the criterion "maximum
a minimum phase except at high frequencies. impedance magnitude at high frequencies" without notice-
An important property of a minimum phase function is ably changing the result in most cases. This effect is easily
that its phase can be calculated from its magnitude (and understood if one considers the transformation via a short
vice versa). This relationship is established by the Hilbert acoustical tube of length 6.1 and tube wave impedance Ztw.
transform The normalized measured impedance Z:neas = Zmeas / Ztw
'Pmin(W)
1
= -
'IT
J00
In IZ'(w)
---du
u-w
+ 'Poo· (8)
is transformed to the desired normalized eardrum impedance
Zb according to
-00
, ZD Z:neas cosh(r6.1) - sinh(r6.1)
In principle, the natural logarithm of the normalized impe- ZD = Ztw = cosh(r6.1) - Z:neas sinh(r6.1)· (9)
dance Z' (w) has to be integrated over all the frequencies. As
the impedance is only measured in a finite frequency range, If the magnitude of Zmeas is large compared to the tube wave
the Hilbert transform is less accurate at the lower and upper impedance Ztw (Zmeas » 1), the result Zb hardly depends
ACUSTICA . acta acustica
728 Hudde and Engel: Middleear properties(part I) Vol. 84 (1998)
40 40
Omm
30
]0
Figure 5. Impact of the transformationlength (used to determinethe eardrumimpedancesZ D from the impedancemeasuredin the AMT)on
the impedanceZD measured"close to the eardrum".The position"0 mm" refers to the optimumspecifiedby the best agreementbetweenthe
"measured"phase (i. e., the phase obtainedby transformingthe impedancemeasuredin the AMT) and the minimumphasederivedfrom the
magnitudeof this transformedimpedance.The upperpanelsshowthe influenceof the positionon the magnitudeof the impedance(normalized
to the tube waveimpedance Ztw). In the lowerpanels the "measured"phases and the correspondingminimumphasesare shown.Thepairs of
correspondingphases are depictedusing the same linestyle.The measuredphases are more positivethan the correspondingminimumphases.
On the left the transformationlength is varied from - 2 mm to +2 mm in I mm steps aroundthe optimumpositionat 0 mm. On the right the
step length is reduced to 0.1 mm to showthe accuracyfor findingthe optimumposition.
on Zmeas (except if the transformation length is very small Finally the resulting impedance ZDR can be compared to
or near a multiple of a half wavelength). It is approximated the eardrum impedance Z D. This is done in Figure 6. A
by perfect agreement between ZD and ZDR could hardly be
expected for several reasons: (a) it has been already demon-
Zb ;:::;! - cothb~l) ;:::;! -j cot(;3o~l). (10)
strated that the forward direction is extremely sensitive, (b)
Incorrect positions are recognized in Figure 5 at high frequen- the area function of the DCR obtained from the mold has an
cies by the corresponding typical decrease in the impedance accuracy estimated to be in the order of 10%, (c) the middle
magnitude, while the phase tends to +900 or -900 depend- ear properties may change during the long interval between
ing on the sign of ~l. the two measurements (in this time the mold has been made
After this unambiguous eardrum impedance Z D has been and the remnant of the ear canal removed).
found, its relationship to the impedance ZDR, the impedance Bearing this in mind, the agreement between Z D and Z DR
obtained by transforming a measured reference impedance is surprisingly good. In fact, an additional "trick" was neces-
Z R to the drum according to the DCR model, can be consid- sary. The area function of the DCR was slightly varied by a
ered. Of course, the reference impedance Z R and the eardrum program searching for the area function that yields the best
impedance Z D have to be measured in the same specimen, agreement for both impedances. The program changed the
and the DCR area function of that individual specimen has to original area function obtained from the mold up to the esti-
be taken into account. This leads to the following procedure. mated tolerance of 10% in the middle section of the DCR (by
First the ear canal of a specimen is resected up to a posi- varying the sample radii). Again, the program did not change
tion which is considered to be the reference area R, and the the area function at both ends of the DCR.
reference impedance Z R is measured. Then a soft mold of A fairly good agreement could be achieved using this
the DCR is made using a two-component silicone material, procedure up to 5 kHz. Above that frequency, the phase, in
which is also used for producing earmolds for hearing aids. particular, becomes increasingly erroneous. Also at low fre-
Then the remnant of the ear canal can also be resected so quencies the agreement is not perfect, which indicates slight
that a measurement "close to the drum" can be taken which changes in the eardrum impedance during the preparation.
provides the eardrum impedance ZD. After measuring the Due to these alterations the frequency of 5 kHz should be
radius function of the DCR by means of the mold, the DCR regarded as a conservative estimation of the validity limit of
chain-matrices, and thereby the impedance transformation the DCR model. This statement only applies to the forward
from the reference area R to the drum area D, are calculated. direction.
ACUSTICA . acta acustica
Vol. 84 (1998) Hudde and Engel: Middle ear properties (part I) 729
40 q qi Fi F
30
Aeff
.~
20
Zmech
jv
I
I
I
I
10
normalized
magnitude in dB
,
,
,
, I
I
I
I
I
Fj = Aeff P I
o
160 Hz 500 lk 2k 5k 10k 16k
One of the main goals of this study was to derive a set of To obtain all the elements of the one-dimensional model,
data describing the middle ear properties as completely as three main types of physical quantities have to be mea-
ACUSTlCA· acta acustica
732 Hudde and Engel: Middle ear properties (part I) Vol. 84 (1998)
sured: acoustical impedances, mechanical impedances, and source very precisely (determination of its Thevenin or Nor-
hybrid acoustomechanical chain-matrices (consisting of four ton equivalent circuit), particularly at higher frequencies.
transfer functions). To measure acoustical impedances in the An improved version of the method using a second mi-
ear canal, we developed an acoustic measuring tube (AMT) crophone has been published in [27]. In the apparatus pre-
which has to be coupled to the ear canal (next section). A sented in that paper, the CSM is combined with a measuring
custom-made measuring head for mechanical impedances tube method. But in spite of good results using this mea-
(MMH) is described in section 3.3. The tip of this MMH has suring head on various technical objects, the measurements
to be rigidly attached to the point where the impedance is in temporal bone preparations remained unsatisfactory. The
to be measured. Both types of impedance measuring device humidity of the temporal bone preparations, which must be
include the stimulation. In fact, the acoustical or mechanical kept moist, was recognized as the cause of these problems.
stimulation was realized by exclusively using the AMT or The sensitivity of the microphones varied by up to 15% due
the MMH. A hydroacoustical impedance measuring device to the humidity. One solution to this problem could be to
(including stimulation) would also be desirable, but has not ensure constant humidity by performing the measurements
yet been realized. Instead only a hydrophone designed to in a measuring chamber. However, this is hardly practicable
pick up the pressure in the vestibule has been built (section because the preparation must be easily accessible from all
3.5). Also the chain-matrices were measured using both types sides.
of impedance measuring device. For these measurements a A closer look at the errors showed that (a) the errors are
device capable of measuring vibrations without loading the smaller for the TFM because the humidity changes the sen-
object is also necessary. We used a fiber-optic displacement sitivity of all the microphones uniformly (the transfer func-
sensor (ODS), as described in section 3.4. The measurement tions are influenced less than the pressures), and that (b) the
of acoustomechanical chain-matrices is described in the final change in sensitivity can be treated as being independent of
section 3.6. frequency, if the frequency range chosen is sufficiently nar-
All the data that were originally measured represent trans- row. This has led to an acoustic measuring tube (AMT) being
fer functions that are complex ratios of the Fourier Trans- used that only relies on the TFM, but incorporates humidity
forms of different acoustical and mechanical quantities which corrections (Figure 10).
occur at various locations. A four-channel FFf spectrum an- Four microphones are used to measure the three transfer
alyzer was used to measure the magnitude and phase of the functions P4 / PI, P3 / PI, and P2 / PI, simultaneously using
transfer functions in a frequency range from 20 Hz to 16 kHz the four-channel spectrum analyzer. The spacings between
with a frequency separation of 20 Hz. The vibrations were the microphones are chosen to obtain a uniform distribution
excited using random noise. To improve the signal-to-noise of the frequency ranges for the pairs 2-1, 3-1 and 4-1. The
ratio the cross power spectra were averaged 500-10000 times admittance in the plane of mic 1 is
depending on the particular conditions.
y; _ Pi/PI - cosh(r~lil)
(19)
I - sinh(r ~lid '
3.2. Acoustical measuring tube (AMT)
where the ~lil denote the distances between the micro-
Some time ago one of the authors measured the eardrum phones i and 1and r the propagation constant in the mea-
impedance of living humans using three probe tube micro- suring tube.
phones [26]. This method may be classified as a measuring The four microphones are necessary to cover the desired
tube method using fixed microphone positions. Since then it frequency range from 160Hz to 16kHz with sufficient accu-
has been standardized and is now referred to as the transfer racy, because the evaluation of equation (19) becomes very
function method (TFM), because the terminating impedance inaccurate if the microphone distance ~lil is close to multi-
is determined from pressure transfer functions measured be- ples of a half wavelength. The nominal frequency ranges as-
tween the microphones. As a special feature of the mea- sociated with the pairs of microphones are 160 Hz -742 Hz,
surements published in [26], the ear canal itself served as 742Hz - 3450Hz, and 3450Hz - 16000Hz. As at the end
a measuring tube. Since the ear canal's cross-sectional area of the tube often a sudden change of the cross-sectional area
function was unknown, it also had to be derived from the occurs (depending on the measuring object) the first mi-
pressure transfer functions. crophone must have a distance which ensures a sufficient
The main disadvantage of the TFM is the lower frequency suppression of possible higher order modes which evanesce
limit which is unavoidable when using a transmission line depending on frequency and distance [28]. The first micro-
method. The tube must have a length of at least >"'/20 to pro- phone should be placed not too far from the end of the tube
vide reliable results. Therefore we initially developed a mea- in order to avoid too long transformation distances. But this
suring head working on the principle of a calibrated sound aspect is not very critical. Thus the distance of 7.3 mm was
source (CSM, calibrated source method). The acoustical load chosen mainly with respect to higher order modes. The de-
is directly determined from the pressure generated at the un- gree of accuracy finally achieved is strongly influenced by the
known load. The advantage of this method is that the device microphone calibration. A special arrangement which termi-
can be realized as a very compact and simple apparatus com- nates the tube rigidly was used to this end. The microphones
prising only a small speaker and a single microphone. A to be calibrated are inserted into lateral openings. Thus a
critical point in using the CSM is the need to calibrate the very accurate basis calibration can be achieved. It turned out
ACUSTICA . acta acustica
Vol. 84 (1998) Hudde and Engel: Middle ear properties (part I) 733
inlet
for static
pressure
Figure 10. Design of the acoustical mea-
suring tube (AMT). It allows acousti-
cal impedances, absolute pressures and
inner
steel
volume velocities in any desired cross-
tube sectional plane to be measured according
to the transfer function method (TFM).
All the dimensions are given in mm. The
7.3 electret microphones are Sennheiser KE-
loudspeaker 4. The inlet for static pressure was not
190 used (air-tight sealing) during the mea-
surements reported.
Z x = FxV
p.
- Jwrno = JW
. (kkf HaF
a
- rno
)
. (23)
force sensor has a sensitivity of about 2.4 VIN.
The lower limit of measurable impedances of the MMH is
shown in Figure 12. On average the impedance limit follows
If only impedance measurements were to be made, it would a 20 dB/dec increase caused by the internal impedance jwrno.
be sufficient to determine the internal mass rno and the sen- The impedance magnitude of a simple vibrator with a mass
sitivity ratio ka/ kF for the calibration. However, in order to a
of I mg, resonant frequency of I kHz, and a quality factor
also measure chain-parameters, force and velocity had to be of 5 is shown for comparison. The smallest ossicle is the
measured separately. This requires that the sensitivities ka stapes weighing about 3 mg. Thus the impedance limit of
and kF be determined separately. To determine the internal the MMH is just sufficient, although a reduction of the noise
mass rno of the piezo element and the tip, any known mass would be desirable. Some care is necessary to avoid pre-
rnk can be used. The mass rno is obtained from the ratio of tension caused by an improper coupling of the MMH tip
the voltage transfer functions HaF measured with this mass and object. In such a case the load would stiffen and would
(HaFk) and without load (HaFO). result in too high impedances being measured. To realize a
tension-free coupling a micrometer caliper is used. First two
rnk small drops of adhesive are placed on the tip of the MMH
rno=------- (24)
HaFk/HaFO - l' and on the object. Then the MMH is slowly shifted towards
ACUSTlCA· acta acustica
Vol. 84 (1998) Hudde and Engel: Middle ear properties (part I) 735
jar, the water soon begins to boil and the filling procedure
piezo element is stopped. Boiling reduces the remaining air solute in the
back SUPP0rl hydrophone water. However, it takes some time for the air
to entirely disappear from the hydrophone. During this time
top the frequency response changes considerably. A steady state
is not reached in less than about two hours. The resonant
frequency is typically shifted from 2 kHz at the beginning
probe tube to about 7 kHz in the steady state (Figure 15). To calibrate
, the hydrophone a known hydroacoustic pressure has to be
, \
generated. This is done using a vibrating water column as
I
'o
"h'
,ousmg
\
\
\
10 pre-
I'fi proposed by Nedzelnitsky [31]. Therefore a cylinder of 4-
I
mp/2 I mp/2
amp' er
5 cm height and a diameter of about 1 cm is mounted on
a vibration exciter. The acceleration a at the bottom of the
cylinder is measured by means of an accelometer. If the
water filling height is h and the opening of the hydrophone
probe tube is placed at a depth d under the water surface, a
hydroacoustic pressure
Figure 14. Design and equivalent circuit of the cochlea hydrophone.
(26)
In this case corresponding acoustical conditions at the drum for the chain-parameters. The first chain parameter becomes
have to be met. For two reasons we exclusively used the
AMT as a stimulator (applying equations 27) when mea- (p'lv') - (p" Iv")
kn------- (29)
suring chain-parameters. The acoustical stimulation is more - (F'lv') - (F" Iv") ,
natural and therefore avoids unnatural modes of vibrations.
Furthermore, the mechanical load conditions (FI = 0 and the others are composed similarly.
v I = 0) can be realized more accurately than the acoustical Different conditions can be realized by using the AMT
ones. Therefore equations (28) have not actually been used. and the MMH simultaneously. We have actually performed
measurements of this kind. The main problem is to real-
Measuring the pressure difference f::1p at the drum would
ize sufficiently different conditions in the whole frequency
have required much effort because two pressures had to be
range, otherwise the differences occuring in equation (29)
picked up. Therefore the tympanic cavity was opened wide
become very inaccurate. In comparison with the direct mea-
when chain-matrices were measured. In this case the pressure
surements the results of this method were more distorted by
Pcav behind the drum can be neglected with respect to the
systematical errors and will therefore not be reported.
pressure P D in front of the drum. The AMT, which also serves
The results obtained using measurements according to
as the sound generator, allows both acoustical quantities PD
equation (27) have been fairly satisfactory up to about
and qD at the drum to be determined. It is used under both
10kHz, as will be reported in part II. The changes of the
mechanical load conditions without any alteration.
vibrational modes caused by changing the load conditions
To determine the chain parameters kn and k21 according seem to be acceptable when aiming at "basic" properties.
to equation (27), the incus must be rigidly clamped (VI = 0)
and the force FI has to be measured. Since the piezo element
is very stiff, the condition V I = 0 is well fulfilled if the piezo References
element itself is clamped at the back. It was proved that
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of the human middle ear and ear canal. Part II: Ear canal,
because the internal mechanical impedance of the MMH is
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[2] H. Hudde, A. Engel: Measuring and modeling basic proper-
To measure the chain-parameters k12 and k22, the ve- ties of the human middle ear and ear canal. Part III: Eardrum
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