Friday, November 30, 2012

Regrowing Hair Cells in The Cochlea

A piece of pop-science that you may be fammilar with (and irks me to no end) is this small snippet from Children of Men:

Besides Strawberry Cough, it seems as if this is the only part of the film anyone remembers. The statement is wrong essentially. Explosions and the ringing sounds are motifs throughout the film, and with an attitude, the viewer is given the impression that loud sounds will make it so that they will never hear certain frequencies again. Yes, the ringing in your ear means that the hair cells in your ears are breaking. No, you are not going deaf.

This piece of pop triva is usually passed on by the same people who in the same breath call the cochlea the "co-chell-a". It's co-clee-a"... not a California based music festival. These hair cells, which reside in the cochlea, break when exposed to loud sounds. They also break over time which is why every one in a while yo will hear a faint ringing in your ears, and the reason why the mosquito ringtone can exist. In such an instance, you will not ever hear that frequency again. However going to a concert will not damage your hearing long term, just for the next few days. Operating a jackhammer every day will. Studies reflecting this have been around since the eighties.

My psychology 100 textbook explained the issue like so:
Imagine these hair cells as a carpet. Sometimes you walk on it, you place furniture on it, and you might rearrange the furniture for a day or so. All of this leaves imprints in the rug that go away fairly easy. However there will always be an impression of where a sofa had sat for a year or so, and over time the carpet will begin to age as well. You will always be able to see where that sofa was for so long, and it will never return to the original state. Such is the case with your cochelear hair cells.

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