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Bone Conduction

Bone-conduction (or simply ‘BC’ for short) hearing is known as the perception of sound transmitted through the skull bone. In BC sound transmission, sound is converted to vibrations that are transmitted through the skull bone directly to the inner ear (the cochlea to be precise). BC is an alternative to the traditional way of hearing known as air-conduction (‘AC’ for short) where the sound vibrations are transmitted through the air in the ear canal (outer ear) and the vibrations of the middle ear bones or ossicles. Because of this, BC sound can be heard without the interaction of the outer ear and the set of 3 tiny bones in the middle ear (also known as: malleus or the hammer, incus or the anvil and the stapes). As a result, hearing devices based on BC sound transmission are designed to entirely bypass the outer and middle ear.

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Nowadays, BC devices are widely used in many applications, such as communication systems, language development approaches, mitigation of stuttering, audiometric investigations, and hearing rehabilitation. Increasing numbers of BC devices are available for communications, hearing rehabilitation, and hearing testing. Each BC device has a unique design with different geometries and masses; they connect to the head using various methods (attached to the skin, anchored to the skull bone, or implanted in the skull bone) and can be located at different positions on the head.

The model

The whole head finite element model (the LiUHead) developed for bone conduction simulation at the Linköping University in Sweden. The geometry and structures were identified from cryosectional images of a human head, and eight different components are included in the model: (1) brain, (2) cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), (3) eyes, (4) inner ears, (5) cartilages, (6) cortical bone (including teeth), (7) soft bone (diploë), (8) soft tissues (comprising skin, muscles, and connective tissues. A unique feature of the model is the 3-layer sandwich structure of the skull bone, mimicking the real skull, where the soft spongy bone (diploë) is interposed between inner and outer layers of dense cortical bone. The LiUHead is solved using linear acoustics and solid mechanics and has been tested and verified for the frequencies ranging from 100 Hz to 10.000 Hz.

The model is primarily used to study sound and vibration transmission in the head in relation to bone conduction. Typical usage scenario includes simulations of different types of bone conduction stimulation devices (such as skull implants or on-skin devices), different stimulation location on the head and head manipulation (such as head surgery or injuries). The model is flexible and adaptable to different simulation types other than bone conduction, including simulation of the head protection devices, hearing aid protection devices, free sound field stimulation, or any other scenario where the analysis of mechanical and acoustical responses of the head tissues is needed.

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