The ear is able to detect low-level acoustic signals by a highly specialized system including a parametric amplifier in the cochlea. This is verified by a numerical mechanical model of the cochlea, which reduces the three-dimensional (3D) system to a one-dimensional (1D) approach. A formerly developed mechanical model permits the consideration of the fluid and the orthotropic basilar membrane in a 1D fluid-structure coupled system. This model shows the characteristic frequency to place transformation of the traveling wave in the cochlea. The additional inclusion of time and space dependent stiffness of outer hair cells and the signal level dependent stiffness of the string enables parametric amplification of the input signal. Due to the nonlinear outer hair cell stiffness change, nonlinear distortions follow as a byproduct of the parametric amplification at low levels constituting the compressive nonlinearity. More distortions are generated by the saturating displacements of the string at high input levels, which can be distinguished from the low-level distortions by the order of additional harmonics. Amplification factors of
are calculated, and a change of the traveling-wave mapping is postulated with parametric amplification representing the healthy state of the cochlea.
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