Monthly Archive: December 2016

An interesting read about how the brain

extracts meaning from noise. Have you suddenly been able to understand someone with a thick accent or identify the lyrics in a song and felt like “your brain appear[ed] to be re-tuning to recognize speech that was previously incomprehensible”?  The University of California at Berkeley reports that its “neuroscientists have now observed this re-tuning in action by recording directly from the surface of a person’s brain as the words of a previously unintelligible sentence suddenly pop out after the subject is told the meaning of the garbled speech.”  Click the link to read more about this fascinating study.

Here’s something positive to anticipate in the coming new year:

Will 2017 Produce a Hearing Breakthrough?  Michelle Perron, The Hearing Journal, writes about what we can anticipate in 2017, stating that “[f]rom reducing the severity of noise-induced hearing loss to restoring hearing via regrowth of stereocilia, hearing professionals have reasons to be hopeful in 2017 and beyond.”  Well, nice to read about something hopeful about 2017.

Hearing test developed to detect hidden hearing loss

UConn School of Medicine researchers develop first hidden hearing loss hearing test. EurekAlert! reports that “[t]wo researchers at UConn School of Medicine have developed a new hearing test that can identify hearing loss or deficits in some individuals considered to have normal or near-normal hearing in traditional tests.”  Leslie R. Bernstein, professor of neuroscience and surgery at UConn, who conducted the study with Constantine Trahiotis, emeritus professor of neuroscience and surgery, explained the importance of the new test by noting that “acquired hearing loss from excessive noise exposure has long been known to produce significant, and sometimes debilitating, hearing deficits.”  EurekAlert! writes that the “new research suggests that hearing loss may be even more widespread than was once thought,” adding that with this new test, there now is a “validated technique to identify ‘hidden’ hearing deficits that would likely go undetected with traditional audiograms.”

Is It Safe to Turn Down the Volume of Hospital Alarms?

New Study Chimes In: “Yes.” If you have ever spent any time in a hospital, whether as a visitor or especially as a patient, you probably wondered how the patients sleep with the constant din caused by monitors, particularly the alarms. The answer, apparently, is “they can’t.” While some sort of alarm is needed to alert staff when a patient is having a crisis, Anesthesiology News reports that “[t]he overabundance and high volume of hospital alarms can have deleterious effects on patients and providers, impairing clinician performance and possibly compromising patient safety (citation omitted).” The good news? The study’s author found that “clinician performance is maintained with alarms that are softer than background noise.”

Coming soon to a hospital near you: A good night’s rest!

 

Mystery noise no longer mysterious:

The mystery of the ‘alien call’ deep in the Mariana Trench is solved. So, what’s the answer?  , wired.co.uk, writes that scientists at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Centre, which named the sound the “Western Pacific Biotwang,” “likely represents the discovery of a new baleen whale call.”  So mystery (sorta) solved!

If he thinks the UK is loud, he should (not) visit the U.S.:

Photo credit: Quiet City Maps

“I wear earplugs everywhere because Britain is too loud.”  Katie Morley, The Telegraph, reports that the UK’s “most famous choirmaster, Gareth Malone, has revealed that he wears earplugs everywhere he goes because Britain has become too noisy.”  Malone wears earplugs all the time because “ears are the tools of my trade and I don’t want to do anything to endanger them.”  Morley writes that despite Malone’s belief that he is “‘geeky’ for protecting his ears from loud sounds, Mr Malone may well be in common with an emerging breed of people who class themselves as intolerant to so-called ‘noise pollution.'”

She almost had us until her use of the unnecessary “so-called.”  Interestingly, while relying on that weasel word to modify the term “noise pollution,” the rest of the piece highlights the many ways in which noise has overwhelmed the UK and damaged the quality of life of a majority of Brits.  Sounds a bit melodramatic, but Morley writes that “two thirds of UK homeowners say their lives are being blighted by noisy activities of their next door neighbours.”

Click the link for the full story.

Listen to the symphony of the natural world:

The Great Animal Orchestra, by Bernie Krause, musician, ecologist, soundscape recordist, and founder of Wild Sanctuary, an organization dedicated to recording and archiving natural soundscapes.

Thanks to London Sound Survey for the link.

Quiet Mornings at MoMa

Civility on display at The Museum of Modern Art:

Start your day quietly at The Museum of Modern Art, the first Wednesday of every month. See your favorite works from MoMA’s collection and take in select new exhibitions, all without the crowds. For these specially priced early hours, we encourage visitors to take time to look slowly, clear your head, silence your phones, and get inspiration for the day and week ahead.

As if a quiet visit at MoMa wasn’t enough, the museum includes “a drop-in meditation space… with guided meditation sessions closing out each morning from 8:30 to 9:00 a.m.”  Quiet Mornings begin at 7:30 a.m.  Admission is free for members and (quiet) children, $12 for adults, and reduced pricing for seniors and students.  Only a limited number of tickets will be available in advance online, with the rest sold on the morning of the event, first come, first sold.

The Best Music for Productivity?

Silence.  Olga Khazan, writing for The Atlantic, wonders whether wearing headphones and listening to music to avoid the noise in an open plan office is “just replacing one distracting noise with another.”  And her research, unsurprisingly, leads her to the inescapable conclusion that music interferes with concentration.  Khazan notes that the more engaging the music is, the worst it is for concentration, adding that “[m]usic with lyrics is dreadful for verbal tasks.”

So the next time your boss tells you to don a pair of headphones to drown out the noise of your fellow open plan toilers, send him or her the link to Ms. Khazan’s article along with a request for an office.

Thanks to @QuietEdinburgh for the link.