Scientists are currently analyzing the specialized ears of a parasitoid fly, ormia ochracea, to better understand how they work in order to further develop microphones for future directional hearing devices.
Ormia ochracea’s sophisticated ears allow it to accurately locate crickets, their main source of sustenance, by hearing their chirps. Because the fly’s head is so small, its ears are only separated by a millimeter of space. As a result, sound arrives at both ears at almost the same time. To help it figure out what direction a sound is coming from, the fly’s eardrums are connected by a structure that acts like a teeter-totter in order to amplify the tiny differences in the arrival time of sound.
Since its discovery in the mid-1990s, this teeter-totter structure has been the focus for many scientists looking to recreate the mechanisms in humans.
“It’s like having two microphones in one that are linked together by this teeter-totter,” said Neal Hall, an assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Texas. Hall recently completed a prototype of a microphone based on the Ormia ochracea’s ear.
The development of this technology could lead to improved directional hearing devices, as well as reduce their power consumption.
Last Updated: August 26, 2014