Insect Ears

Human ears are pretty amazing instruments, but, apparently, compared to insect ears ours are large, crude, and could use a few upgrades. Professor Daniel Robert of the University of Bristol believes that by studying insect ears we could create much smaller and more powerful microphones and hearing aides.

Insects have eardrums just like humans, but theirs are structured a bit differently. In human eardrums, we have a 3-part bone structure that works as a leverage system that amplifies and converts the acoustic wave and pushes it into our inner ear. In insects such as crickets Robert has found a much simpler lever system that performs the same job, but gives us an example of a much simpler way to convert and amplify sound that we could use in something like a microphone. Essentially, their ear gets way more bang for its buck.

The other really cool thing about insect ears is how small they are. While our cochlea is about a centimeter across, an insect’s is half a millimeter and even smaller. What’s more is that we’ve found ears on all different parts of insect’s bodies. Some butterflies have ears on their wings, flies have them on their chest, and certain crickets have ears on their legs. Can you imagine hearing out of your legs?

Can you think of some cool auditory devices we could invent with this new knowledge of a simpler, more powerful, and smaller way of converting and amplifying sound?

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