A Colombian scientist made a potentially groundbreaking discovery that could revolutionize human hearing technologies, local media reported on Wednesday.
Fernando Montealegre Zapata, one of the world’s few experts regarding the micro mechanics of sound production in insects, reportedly found a new structure in the tympanum, or eardrum, of grasshoppers that could both change the way experts think about sound broadcasting and how hearing aids are constructed.
The Colombian-born scientist found that the auditory process of grasshoppers was just as intricate and sophisticated as that of mammals.
“Grasshoppers have a few eardrums in each of their front paws. Inside the leg, each eardrum is connected to a tube filled with air that enters the body and out the chest. This input is important because it amplifies the sound,” explained Montealegre. “Humans hear between 50 and 20,000 hertz, while [grasshoppers] hear up to 150,000 hertz.”
The Colombian-born scientist’s aim was to see how useful such a tube could be in increasing sound in hearing aids for the deaf.
Human eardrums pick up vibrations and then convert it into something coherent using three tiny bones, known affectionately as the hammer, the stirrup and the anvil. Sound is then able to pass through the cochlea which in turn gives us the ability to make sense of different sounds.
Comparing human hearing and that of the grasshopper, Montealegre noticed something very different. He found that “between the two eardrums and beneath the cuticle that separates the receptor cells, there is a fluid in a very small closed cavity.”
“One idea [we have] is to produce an electrical analogue [to therefore] propose a better design of audio sensors,” said the scientist.
According to Montealegre, this discovery has already facilitated the need for more in-depth experiments.