MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences : Hearing

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for MCAT Social and Behavioral Sciences

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Hearing

Which of the following is not a cause of a conductive hearing loss?

Possible Answers:

Acute otitis media

Loud noises

Perforated eardrum

Impacted cerumen

Foreign body in the external ear canal

Correct answer:

Loud noises

Explanation:

Conductive hearing loss occurs when sound is not conducted through the external auditory canal to the tympanic membrane and the ossicles. Causes include acute otitis media, performated eardrum, impacted cerumen (earwax), or a foreign body in the external canal. A sensorineural hearing loss occurs when there is damage to the fine hairs in the cochlea caused by loud noise.

Example Question #2 : Hearing

Which of the following is not a bone of the middle ear?

Possible Answers:

Malleus

Pinna

Stapes

Incus 

Correct answer:

Pinna

Explanation:

The "malleus," "incus," and "stapes" are the three bones that make up the ossicles of the middle ear. Together they work to transform sound waves into mechanical vibrations. The "pinna" is not a bone at all, but rather the anatomical term for the fleshy, cartilaginous outer ear.

Example Question #3 : Hearing

Sound waves enter the outer ear and vibrate the tympanic membrane, which causes the transmission of sound waves through the ossicles to the inner ear. In what order do the ossicles vibrate? 

Possible Answers:

Malleus, incus, and stapes

Stapes, malleus, and incus

Incus, malleus, and stapes

Incus, stapes, and malleus

Correct answer:

Malleus, incus, and stapes

Explanation:

The ossicle that attaches directly to the tympanic membrane is the malleus, or "hammer." This bone articulates with the incus, or "anvil," which then articulates with the stapes, or "stirrup" (so called because of it's resemblance to the stirrup of a saddle). The stapes in turn attaches to the oval window of the fluid-filled inner ear. 

Example Question #4 : Hearing

Which of the following structures is the main sensory organ associated with hearing?

Possible Answers:

Organ of Corti

Bony labyrinth

Tympanic membrane

The scala tympani

Eustachian tube

Correct answer:

Organ of Corti

Explanation:

The main sensory organ of hearing is a small structure within the cochlea called the “organ of Corti.” It contains hair cells, which are sensory receptor cells capable of responding to changes in pressure of the fluid of the inner ear. The organ of Corti is sandwiched between the three fluid-filled chambers, or scalae: the scala vestibuli, the scala tympani, and the scala media.

The “bony labyrinth” is a separate part of the inner ear that plays a role in balance and equilibrium. The “eustachian tube” is not a part of the inner ear, but rather a channel between the middle ear and the pharynx.

Example Question #5 : Hearing

Which of the following is not a function of the eustachian tube?

Possible Answers:

Equalization of pressure in the middle ear

Removal of cellular and bacterial waste

Production of perilymph

Drainage of fluid from the middle ear

Correct answer:

Production of perilymph

Explanation:

The eustachian tube primarily functions to equalize pressure between the middle ear and the atmosphere, remove cellular and bacterial waste from the middle ear, and to drain fluid from the middle ear into the pharynx. Cells within the inner ear produce perilymph. 

Example Question #6 : Hearing

George is speaking with his friends after the school football game. His attention is focused on their conversation, but suddenly he turns to the group next to him because he hears his brother's name mentioned. 

Which of the following concepts best accounts for George hearing his brother's name?

Possible Answers:

Cocktail party effect

Primacy effect

Heuristics

Divided attention

Schemas

Correct answer:

Cocktail party effect

Explanation:

The “cocktail party effect” accounts for the fact that we are able to hear personally important information even if we are not involved with it. In this example, George was in a conversation amongst his friends, and not involved with the conversation of the group nearby. The cocktail party effect explains that even though he was not directly paying attention to the nearby conversation, he did not completely filter the information out. Instead, it is was if he "turned the volume down" and paid attention once the information became personally relevant, such as the mentioning of his brother's name.

“Divided attention” is when an individual focuses on multiple tasks at once. While it could be argued that George is attending to two conversations at once, the cocktail party effect best describes the reason he is able to hear his brother's name without any attempt to listen to two conversations at once. The “primacy effect” concerns our tendency to have better memory for things at the beginning of a list (e.g. if you are given a list of words to remember, you will be more likely to remember the ones at the beginning rather than ones in the middle of the list). “Heuristics” are short cuts used for problem solving. Last, “schemas” are mental frameworks we use for understanding new experiences.

Example Question #7 : Hearing

Signal detection studies measure an individual’s ability to detect certain stimuli. They involve exposure to stimuli at varying magnitudes and ask subjects to detect any changes in their perceptual experience of the stimuli (i.e. the just-noticeable difference). Perceiving magnitude differences in stimuli depends on the type of sensory experience (e.g. touch or sound) and is based on proportional rather than absolute amounts. 

Imagine a hypothetical study that asked participants to perceive changes in amplitude of a sound stimulus. In this experiment, the researchers wanted to know how much the amplitude needed to change in order for an individual to detect a difference. They decided to test the just-noticeable difference at three different amplitudes: low, medium, and high. Participants in each category listened to the initial sound, and then the amplitude was increased or decreased slightly until participants detected a difference. 

Which of the following is most likely to be a potential confounding variable in the study 

Possible Answers:

Age

Marital status

Depressive symptomatology

Intelligence quotient

Correct answer:

Age

Explanation:

A confounding variable is an extraneous variable that is inadvertently associated with the independent or dependent variables. The just-noticeable difference of a stimulus can change substantially over the course of a person's lifespan. In this case, age is associated with differences in hearing abilities. Normative hearing loss and certain medical conditions that contribute to hearing loss are more common as age increases. The other options (marital status, IQ, and depressive symptoms) are not associated with changes in hearing. 

Example Question #8 : Hearing

In which lobe of the brain is the primary auditory cortex located?

Possible Answers:

Occipital lobe

Temporal lobe

Parietal lobe

Frontal lobe 

Correct answer:

Temporal lobe

Explanation:

The primary auditory cortex, the area of the brain responsible for processing auditory information, is located bilaterally in the temporal lobes in Brodmann areas 41 and 42. 

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