Estimation of Stapedius-Muscle Activation using Ear Canal Absorbance Measurements : An Application of Signal Processing in Physiological Acoustics
The stapedius muscle, which is located in the middle ear, goes into contraction when the ear is exposed to high sound intensities. This muscle activation is called ‘the acoustic reflex’. Measurement of the acoustic reflex is clinically of importance since it can reveal diagnostic information about the middle ear’s pathologies. Moreover, this muscle-activation alters the acoustic characteristics of the middle ear (i.e. the acoustic impedance and the power reflectance), which in turn, can significantly manipulate one’s perception of sounds. In the present study, these acoustic characteristics are measured in the ear canal by means of absorbance measures using equivalent Thevenin circuit theory. The quantities are then compared to form the shift responses between the baseline (before the activation) and the post-activator effect. This project investigates the shifts in power reflectance and admittance of the middle ear caused by the stapedius-muscle contraction. The wideband characterization (0.1- 8 kHz) of these acoustic reflex-induced shifts is achieved using chirp signals as a probe and through ipsilateral broadband noise activator. The data acquisition and signal processing of the project are carried out using MATLAB software. The hardware consists of National Instruments USB-6212 data acquisition interface and low noise microphone system Etymotic Research ER-10B+. A group of 10 adults including 5 males and 5 females are recruited as the participants for the project. The measurements of the reflectance shifts indicate that the most robust frequency region affected by the acoustic reflex is up to 4 kHz whereas for the admittance shifts, this region is up to 2 kHz. In addition, it is shown that the stapedius-muscle contraction leads to the attenuation of the lowfrequency transmission into the middle ear (less than 1 kHz) consistent with a stiffnesscontrolled system in this range of frequencies. In contrast, the results imply that the activation of the stapedius muscle leads to a slight enhancement of the frequency transmission in the range of 1-4 kHz (corresponding to the speech frequency band). These findings suggest a beneficial role for the stapedius-muscle contraction in the perception of speech during vocalization. Furthermore, the implemented methods in this project can be useful in better understanding the effect of the stapedius-muscle contraction on the speech perception both in normal hearing and hearing impaired persons.
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