Does hearing in response to soft-tissue stimulation involve skull vibrations? A within-subject comparison between skull vibration magnitudes and hearing thresholds

Shai Chordekar*, Ronen Perez, Cahtia Adelman, Haim Sohmer, Liat Kishon-Rabin

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Hearing can be elicited in response to bone as well as soft-tissue stimulation. However, the underlying mechanism of soft-tissue stimulation is under debate. It has been hypothesized that if skull vibrations were the underlying mechanism of hearing in response to soft-tissue stimulation, then skull vibrations would be associated with hearing thresholds. However, if skull vibrations were not associated with hearing thresholds, an alternative mechanism is involved. In the present study, both skull vibrations and hearing thresholds were assessed in the same participants in response to bone (mastoid) and soft-tissue (neck) stimulation. The experimental group included five hearing-impaired adults in whom a bone-anchored hearing aid was implanted due to conductive or mixed hearing loss. Because the implant is exposed above the skin and has become an integral part of the temporal bone, vibration of the implant represented skull vibrations. To ensure that middle-ear pathologies of the experimental group did not affect overall results, hearing thresholds were also obtained in 10 participants with normal hearing in response to stimulation at the same sites. We found that the magnitude of the bone vibrations initiated by the stimulation at the two sites (neck and mastoid) detected by the laser Doppler vibrometer on the bone-anchored implant were linearly related to stimulus intensity. It was therefore possible to extrapolate the vibration magnitudes at low-intensity stimulation, where poor signal-to-noise ratio limited actual recordings. It was found that the vibration magnitude differences (between soft-tissue and bone stimulation) were not different than the hearing threshold differences at the tested frequencies. Results of the present study suggest that bone vibration magnitude differences can adequately explain hearing threshold differences and are likely to be responsible for the hearing sensation. Thus, the present results support the idea that bone and soft-tissue conduction could share the same underlying mechanism, namely the induction of bone vibrations. Studies with the present methodology should be continued in future work in order to obtain further insight into the underlying mechanism of activation of the hearing system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-67
Number of pages9
JournalHearing Research
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • Bone conduction
  • Bone-anchored implant
  • Hearing thresholds
  • Laser Doppler vibrometer
  • Soft-tissue conduction
  • Vibrations


Dive into the research topics of 'Does hearing in response to soft-tissue stimulation involve skull vibrations? A within-subject comparison between skull vibration magnitudes and hearing thresholds'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this