The Middle and External Ears of Terrestrial Vertebrates as Mechanical and Acoustic Transducers

  • John J. Rosowski


The external and middle ears of terrestrial vertebrates work together to transform sound in free air to sound pressures and volume velocities in the fluid in the vestibule of the auditory inner ear. The primary structural bases for this transformation are the acoustics of the ear canal and the ratio of the areas of the tympanic membrane and the stapes footplate. The efficiency of this transformation and the extreme sensitivity of the auditory inner ear to sound enable vertebrates to hear sounds that produce sub-Angstrom displacements of middle-ear structures. Nonetheless, the absolute size and the form of the tympanic membrane, ossicles and ossicular suspension make the transformation process frequency selective, and it is argued that this selectivity is the primary force shaping what sounds are audible by different animal species. This chapter quantifies sound transformation through the ear of several vertebrates and discusses the structures that affect the frequency selectivity of these processes.


Sound Pressure Tympanic Membrane Sound Power Acoustic Transducer Stapes Footplate 
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  • John J. Rosowski

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