Bell, A. Annoyance From Wind Turbines: Role of the Middle Ear Muscles

Acoustics Australia, Vol. 42, No. 1, April 2014 P57
Andrew Bell, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, Canberra

In a Letter to the Editor, Andrew Bell writes: “There is a simple, though unappreciated, explanation for the annoyance that some people experience when near a rotating wind turbine or inside an anechoic chamber. The explanation involves understanding that the ear is not just a microphone, as a lot of people seem to think.

Rather the ear is part of a sophisticated gain control mechanism. This is not unexpected when you consider its enormous dynamic range – 120 dB or a million million times. No linear detector could work satisfactorily over such a huge input range.

……. In the present discussion of wind turbines, the action of the middle ear muscles and the intralabyrinthine pressure theory which explains their anatomical function deserve more attention.

The middle ear muscles are an essential part of an intricate hearing system, although they have become poor cousins to the cochlea.

Unless we recognise their essential function, we will, as Peter Alway again relates, begin to doubt the reports of people who “feel pressure” in their ears even though the sound (or lack of it) which causes the problem is inaudible.”

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