Modelling the Generation of the Cochlear Microphonic
The human ear is a remarkable sensory organ. A normal healthy human ear is able to process sounds covering a wide range of frequencies and intensities, while distinguishing between different components of complex sounds such as a musical chord. In the last four decades, knowledge about the cochlea and the mechanisms involved in its operation has greatly increased, but many details about these mechanisms remain unresolved and disputed. The cochlea has a vulnerable structure. Consequently, measuring and monitoring its mechanical and electrical activities even with contemporary devices is very difficult. Modelling can be used to fill gaps between those measurements that are feasible and actual cochlear function. Modelling techniques can also help to simplify complex cochlear operation to a tractable and comprehensible level while still reproducing certain behaviours of interest. Modelling therefore can play an essential role in developing a better understanding of the cochlea. The Cochlear Microphonic (CM) is an electrical signal generated inside the cochlea in response to sound. This electrical signal reflects mechanical activity in the cochlea and the excitation processes involved in its generation. However, the difficulty of obtaining this signal and the simplicity of other methods such as otoacoustic emissions have discouraged the use of the cochlear microphonic as a tool for studying cochlear functions. In this thesis, amodel of the cochlea is presented which integrates bothmechanical and electrical aspects, enabling the interaction between them to be investigated. The resulting model is then used to observe the effect of the cochlear amplifier on the CM. The results indicate that while the cochlear amplifier significantly amplifies the basilar membrane displacement, the effect on the CM is less significant. Both of these indications agree with previous physiological findings. A novel modelling approach is used to investigate the tuning discrepancy between basilar membrane and CMtuning curves. The results suggest that this discrepancy is primarily due to transversal phase cancellation in the outer hair cell rather than longitudinal phase cancellation along the basilar membrane. In addition, the results of the model suggest that spontaneous cochlear microphonic should exist in the cochlea. The existence of this spontaneous electrical signal has not yet been reported.