Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Hearing Linked to Cochlea Shape

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Hearing Linked to Cochlea Shape

Article excerpt

Shape matters, even in hearing. Specifically, it is the shape of the cochlea--the snail shell-shaped organ in the inner ear that converts sound waves into nerve impulses that the brain deciphers--which proves to be surprisingly important.

A study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences establishes a direct link between the cochlea's curvature and the low frequency hearing limit of more than a dozen different mammals.

The relationship will be useful in conservation to estimate the impact that the noises of human activities are having on animals such as Siberian tigers, polar bears, and marine mammals that will not sit still for hearing tests. It also can provide new information about the hearing of extinct mammals such as mammoths and saber-toothed tigers and, in so doing, may contribute new insights into how the sense of hearing evolved.

"It turns out that it is the curvature of the cochlea, not its size, that is highly correlated to the low-frequency hearing limit," says Daphne Manoussaki, assistant professor of mathematics at Vanderbilt University, who headed the new study. …

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