Tiny Force Probe Device Could Lead to New Treatments for Hearing Loss

Stanford University researchers are developing a tiny moving probe to study the mechanical properties of sensory cells in the ear - the tiny, flexible hair cells that translate sound waves into electrical signals. Their research could lead to new treatments for hearing loss, and could also advance other scientists' research. At 300 nanometers thick, the probe is just three-thousandths the width of a human hair. Made of flexible silicon, it can mimic a much wider range of sound wave frequencies than rigid glass probes, making it more practical for studying hearing. The probe also measures the force it exerts on hair cells as it pushes, a new achievement for high-speed force probes at such small sizes.