Spider webs could be the basis for better microphones in hearing aids. (Credit: Binghamton State University)

New research shows that fine fibers like spider silk actually improve the quality of microphones for hearing aids. The microphone improves the directional sensing across a wide variety of frequencies that are often too quiet for microphones to pick up on. For someone with a hearing aid, that means being able to cancel out background noise when having a conversation in a crowded area.

Spider silk is thin enough that it also can move with the air when hit by sound waves. The study used spider silk, but the researchers say that any fiber that is thin enough could be used in the same way. While the spider silk picks up the direction of airflow with great accuracy, that information has to be translated into an electronic signal to be of use.

The study is a game changer for microphones but may also tell us something unique about spiders. Researchers speculate that because spider silk is so good at sensing air flow, it’s possible spiders can hear through their own web on top of what they are already known to hear through the small hairs on their bodies.