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The design, implementation, and characterization of a microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) capacitive accelerometer-based middle ear microphone are presented in this paper. The microphone is intended for middle ear hearing aids as well as future fully implantable cochlear prosthesis. Human temporal bones acoustic response characterization results are used to derive the accelerometer design requirements. The prototype accelerometer is fabricated in a commercial silicon-on-insulator (SOI) MEMS process. The sensor occupies a sensing area of 1 mm × 1 mm with a chip area of 2 mm × 2.4 mm and is interfaced with a custom-designed low-noise electronic IC chip over a flexible substrate. The packaged sensor unit occupies an area of 2.5 mm × 6.2 mm with a weight of 25 mg. The sensor unit attached to umbo can detect a sound pressure level (SPL) of 60 dB at 500 Hz, 35 dB at 2 kHz, and 57 dB at 8 kHz. An improved sound detection limit of 34-dB SPL at 150 Hz and 24-dB SPL at 500 Hz can be expected by employing start-of-the-art MEMS fabrication technology, which results in an articulation index of approximately 0.76. Further micro/nanofabrication technology advancement is needed to enhance the microphone sensitivity for improved understanding of normal conversational speech.
Date of Publication: Dec. 2012