US Department of Defense
Advancing Blast Injury Research to Protect and Heal Those Who Serve

3D Finite Element Modeling of Blast Wave Transmission from External Ear to Cochlea

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Researchers use a three-dimensional finite element model to study blast-related overpressure transmission from the external ear to the spiral cochlea.

Hearing loss is one of the top disability claims to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for those in the military, specifically, Service members who are at greater risk of blast exposure during deployments and, therefore, blast overpressure (BOP) that can lead to blast-induced auditory damage. While there is available research on injuries to the middle ear, there are research gaps on the mechanisms of blast damage to the inner ear. The authors of this study1 aimed to provide a more accurate means of understanding the blast wave transmission from the ear canal to the cochlea. The goals of this research intended to provide preliminary support for the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of blast-related hearing loss.

To achieve this goal, researchers modeled the blast wave transmission from the external ear to the spiral cochlea. A finite element (FE) model was used to explore BOP exposure. The FE model provides a comprehensive simulation that captures sound transmission within the ear. This model included the meshed ear canal, middle ear, and cochlea. Throughout the model, monitors captured the blast wave transmission, including the simulated BOP from the base to the apex of the cochlea.

The results demonstrated the ability to model pressures along the two chambers of spiral cochlea, the scala vestibuli and scala tympani, displacement of the stapes footplate, and displacements of the basilar membrane. While the FE model provides detail, this method has several limitations, including the lack of additional research measuring the intracochlear pressure during a blast, and the need for additional animal models exposed to BOP. The study contributes to further developing our understanding of how the cochlea responds during blast exposure and, thus, the ability to predict potential hearing loss in our Service members.

Soldiers conduct field artillery certifications
Figure 1. Soldiers conduct field artillery certifications at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., Dec. 8, 2021.
(U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Beggs)


1 Brown, M. A., Bradshaw, J. J., & Gan, R. Z. (2021). Three-dimensional finite element modeling of blast wave transmission from the external ear to a spiral cochlea. Journal of Biomechanical Engineering, 144(1).


This work was supported by the Department of Defense (DOD) (Grant No. W81XWH-14-1-0228; Funder ID: 10.13039/100000005).

Last modified: 15-Feb-2022