Mimicking the Mechanism
The pioneering work in discovering the fly's unusual hearing mechanism was done by Ronald Miles at Binghamton University and colleagues Ronald Hoy and Daniel Robert, who first described the phase amplification mechanism the fly uses to achieve its directional hearing some 20 years ago. In 2013, Miles, and his colleagues presented a microphone inspired by the fly's ears. (See related release: http://newswise.com/articles/researchers-design-sensitive-new-microphone-modeled-on-fly-ear)
Inspired by Miles's prior work, Hall and his graduate students Michael Kuntzman and Donghwan Kim built a miniature pressure-sensitive teeter-totter in silicon that has a flexible beam and integrated piezoelectric materials. The use of piezoelectric materials was their original innovation, and it allowed them to simultaneously measure the flexing and the rotation of the teeter-totter beam. Simultaneously measuring these two vibration modes allowed them to replicate the fly's special ability to detect sound direction in a device essentially the same size as the fly's physiology.
This technology may be a boon for many people in the future, since 2 percent of Americans wear hearing aids, but perhaps 10 percent of the population could benefit from wearing one, Hall said.
"Many believe that the major reason for this gap is patient dissatisfaction, he added. "Turning up the gain to hear someone across from you also amplifies all of the surrounding background noise resembling the sound of a cocktail party."
The new technology could enable a generation of hearing aids that have intelligent microphones that adaptively focus only on those conversations or sounds that are of interest to the wearer. But before the devices become pa
|Contact: Jason Socrates Bardi|
American Institute of Physics