Everybody has the sounds they love and the ones they don’t enjoy. A favorite song, the natural sounds of nature, and soothing music can all capture a person and take them to a better place mentally. On the other hand, a neighbor’s loud music coming through the wall, horns honking beyond the window, and the buzz of the dishwasher in the background all make you want to climb the walls. Continue reading
Researchers at Hebrew University in Jerusalem are developing a sonar-based device that, according to preliminary tests, already allows the congenitally blind to distinguish between different shapes and even to read. Just as shockingly, the device appears to activate areas of the brain that were formerly believed to Continue reading
Medical research has uncovered a danger to your health that can increase blood pressure, boost the chance of a heart attack or stroke, cause tumors, result in insomnia, impair work performance, raise your stress level and lead to hearing loss. The menace: The volume control on your iPod or MP3 player as well as the traffic outside your window. Our noisy world is threatening our well-being in frightening ways. Continue reading
It’s always nice when a scientific study proves what most of us already know: A cancer treatment doesn’t have to involve drugs and a hospital to be effective. And sometimes a good treatment is even FREE. Continue reading
It’s estimated that 10 million Americans suffer with noise-induced hearing loss. In fact, noise is one of the most common occupational hazards today, with as many as 30 million Americans being exposed to harmful noise levels at work.
We register sound through little hairs that vibrate in our inner ears in response to different noises. When these hairs are exposed to a sudden burst of very loud noise or to a steady stream of fairly loud noise, they can get damaged, resulting in hearing loss.
Sound pressure is measured in decibels (dB). Here are some everyday sounds and their average decibel rankings:
Sound Decibels (db)
Very faint, rustling leaves 5
Typical speech 60
Washing machine 75
Busy city traffic 85
Hair dryer 90
Leaf blower, rock concert, chainsaw 110
Ambulance, jack hammer 120
Jet plane from 100 feet 130
Fireworks, gunshot 140
12-gauge shotgun 165
How loud is too loud?
Steady exposure to noise that reaches 85 dB can produce hearing loss. A one-time exposure to very loud noises like a gunshot at 140 dB can also cause hearing loss. Listening to a discman or mp3 player at a standard volume level of 5 for 15 minutes a day is enough to cause permanent damage.
Since it’s not practical to walk around with a meter that allows you to measure dB, a good rule of thumb is that if you have to raise your voice in order to be heard by a person who is a couple of feet away, the noise level is considered hazardous.
Another practical measure is to carefully observe for ringing in your ears or if sounds feel flat or dull after leaving a noisy environment. If either of these conditions are present, you were probably exposed to a hazardous level of noise.
If you are exposed to potentially harmful noises at work or home, I recommend that you strongly consider using expandable or pre-molded earplugs. You can find them at almost any pharmacy.
An alternative is to use earmuffs, although they might not provide the same level of protection as earplugs that sit snug in your external ear canal.
If you have children who like to listen to music on their mp3 players or in their cars, please share this article with them so that they’re aware of how their choices today may affect them in the future.
People can “hear” not only with their ears, but also with their skin, new research shows.
In fact, sensations on the skin designed to mimic certain types of speech actually helped people decipher sounds better, the Canadian scientists found.
“We have never been able to show whether we could use tactile information in this way,” said Bryan Gick, co-author of a letter to the editor in Nature.
At this point, the research has more implications for basic science, for “how perception works,” explained Gick, an associate professor of linguistics at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver. “We’re picking up on this information, and integrating it seamlessly [in the brain].”
But, he added, “once we understand the mechanics, it’s much easier to see how applications could grow out of it. Perhaps we could design a perceptual aid [for people with hearing impairments] or special headphones for pilots to distinguish sounds and noises.”
Senses ‘merge’ to interpret sight, sound
Scientists already knew that visual cues — looking at a person’s face or lips, for instance — can help someone figure out what that person is saying, but little research has looked into the tactile side of things.
Traditional thought held that one hears with the ears and sees with the eyes, with each of these perceptions linked to a separate part of the brain.
More recent research, however, has suggested that the senses merge when interpreting sights or sounds. “The brain doesn’t care where the information comes from,” Gick said. “It picks up from different senses.”
If sight and sound don’t match, for example, what you’re seeing can actually override what you’re hearing.
“People would report having heard what the eyes tell me,” Gick said.
How the study was done
These researchers designed their study around the fact that language includes both aspirated sounds such as “pa” and “ta,” which involve air coming through the mouth, and unaspirated sounds such as “ba” or “da,” which don’t involve this expulsion of air.
Small puffs of air were delivered through vinyl tubing to the skin and neck of 66 volunteers. When the unaspirated sounds “ba” and “da” were paired with a puff of air (mimicking an aspirated sound), the participants thought the sounds were actually “pa” and “ta.”
“The nature of tactile stimulation can influence the actual part of speech you can perceive,” said Robert Frisina Jr., associate chair of otolaryngology at the University of Rochester Medical Centre, in Rochester, NY. “People with hearing impairments could have significant improvement when they’re provided with tactile cues,” he noted.
“The findings are pretty novel and provocative. You wouldn’t expect that kind of [difference] from a little puff of air,” Frisina added. “The areas of the brain for touch and for hearing are connected. Neurologically, it does make sense.”
“Individuals are really picking up on certain clues that we may not necessarily be aware of,” said Dr Thomas Brammeier, director of the Hearing and Balance Enter at Scott & White in Temple, Texas