Inspiring Insect Ears

Sep 27, 2021 | Blog | 0 comments

What can we learn from an insect’s ability to hear?  

The common fly may have a hearing ability capable of revolutionizing hearing aids for humans. Human hearing is possible because of our ability to sense tiny differences in air pressure waves (sound) entering our ears. 

We detect the direction from which sound is coming based on the time difference for sound to reach our ears (which are separated by approximately 6 inches). Sound travels at 768 mph, so this difference can be as small as 0.0004 seconds, yet our brains are capable of interpreting this difference, immediately detecting the source of the sound and tuning out interfering sounds. This allows people to hear individual conversations in a crowded, noisy room. Yet hearing aids amplify all background noises, making it very difficult to perceive individual conversations. 

Enter the hearing ability of the common fly scientifically named Ormia ochracea.

This fly lays its eggs on a certain species of cricket. The fly locates the crickets in the dark by listening to their singing. What’s remarkable is that the fly can zero in on the singing cricket. How does the fly hear? The distance between the fly’s eardrums is minuscule, and it has been found that the eardrums are actually connected to each other. Thus, this fly should not be able to locate the cricket because the fly’s eardrums are connected – so there cannot be any discernible difference in sound-arrival-timing. 

Some alternative, yet-to-be-discovered mechanism for sound direction is awaiting discovery. This bug has the potential to revolutionize hearing aid design. We have much to learn from God’s design, even the design of a fly’s ear. 

(Source: Inspired Evidence, Donald De Young, Discovery Design – Searching out the Creators Secrets, 2009 pp.36)

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