Monday, 25 July 2011

It's All Gone Pete Tong

What would you do if you were deaf?  With ipods, walkmans, concerts, and every other loud noise destroying our ears this is a question that people should think about more and more.  Last night I watched the movie, 'Its all gone Pete Tong.'  I have watched this movie about five times.   It is great because it has craziness, music, tragedy and has the main character overcome his obstacles.  In the movie this DJ Frankie Wilde (spoiler alert) is the best DJ on Ibiza.  He is stupid, superficial and constantly partying.  The loud noise from the sitting in front of speakers combined with the drugs and alcohol causes him to go deaf.  It is impossible to fix hearing loss like many other ailments in today.  Although some preventatives measures like swallowing 1.2 g of N-acetylcysteine twelve hours before being bombarded with noise (recommended by Researcher Richard D. Kopke, MD), taking magnesium daily which helps stimulate blood flow, taking a break from the noise (something Frankie did way too late), picking the right earphones and carrying ear plugs for concerts.  Still to fix the problem as big as the holes in Frankie's ears is being worked on by some of my colleagues in the nanoear project.

What allows us to hear?  The eardrum of an ear simplifies incoming air pressure waves to a single channel of amplitude. In the inner ear, the distribution of vibrations along the length of the basilar membrane is detected by hair cells. The location and intensity of vibrations in the basilar membrane is transmitted to the brain through the auditory nerve.  The basilar membrane within the cochlea of the inner ear is a stiff structural element (taken from Wiki).  Its stiffness is important to hearing.  It is reported to have a stiffness of around 0.7 and 3.3 mN/m (REF) .   Loss of its stiffness as well loss of the hair cells can cause hearing loss like in Frankie's case.  These mechanical changes at the cellular level are involved in noise-induced hearing loss. There is a recovery of the cellular stiffness and cell length over a two-week period, indicating an activation of cellular repair mechanisms for restoring the auditory function following noise trauma (REF).  The loud noise generates free radicals that damage the proteins and lipids in those cells (which is why the N-acetylcysteine and other drugs may help prevent this).

At the end of the film Frankie discovers that the surface tension and wave propagation of sound can travel not just to the ear but to other parts of the body as well.  The skin's surface tension through his feet, and hands can be sensed in a similar way as in the ear allowing Frankie to apply the fader at exactly the right point to make the crowd go #&/%"/ crazy.