Otolaryngology
Head & Neck Surgery

Research Labs: Sunil Puria

The air and bone conduction pathways of hearing

The OtoBiomechanics Group at Stanford is developing three-dimensional and multiscale bio-computational models of the middle ear and the inner ear and their applications to understanding disease processes and interventions.

Middle-ear mechanics

Our goal is to understand the relationship between anatomical structures and physiological responses of the human middle ear. We combine dynamical measurements of the middle ear with advances in medical imaging of anatomical structures, and three-dimensional bio-computational modeling tailored to the anatomy and physiology of individual ears. This approach allows us to asses quantitatively the effect of the middle ear anatomy on sound transmission in the forward and reverse directions, from high-resolution microCT imaging based morphometry, tailored to the individual anatomy. Such an approach allows quantification of precise causes of conductive hearing loss due to damage, based on imaging data and computational biomechanics. It also allows the possibility to predict the outcome of a particular surgical plan to repair the damage, or reconstruct it with a passive or active prosthetic.

Inner-ear Mechanics

Our plan is to build a three-dimensional and multiscale computational model of the human organ of Corti with associated vestibular canals and ducts on a mm scale, the hair cell soma on a um scale and hair cell tip links on a nm scale. This will be the first biomechanical model valid for both air and bone conducted sound, a vital distinction, because of its application to a broader scope of hearing health issues than with previous models. The computational framework will allow modification of structural parameters and provide the power to analyze resulting functions in a fast and efficient manner on a desktop computer. The bio-computational framework will be used to systematically understand a variety of inner ear pathologies. We also plan to integrate the cochlear model with the human middle ear model. Such a unified model can be used to better understand the generation and detection of otoacoustic emissions and how pathology of the organ of Corti can affect their clinical measurements in the ear canal. With our model, the mechanical etiology of inner ear disease and potential strategies for its repair can be explored systematically. An important future technology is the regeneration of cochlear sub structures through the introduction and differentiation of stem cells. The yet unknown mechanical consequences of these regeneration efforts on hearing also can be explored in the proposed biomechanical framework.

The research being performed by the OtoBiomechanics Group at Stanford and funded in part by the NIDCD of NIH, are therefore the core foundation for multiple projects that are expected to fundamentally alter our understanding of middle and inner ear function, pathology and intervention.

» About Sunil Puria, PhD

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