You can hear the difference between hot and cold water

Water is viscous. With heat, the viscosity drops. And you can hear the difference in its splash.

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Small-molecule cocktail could reverse hearing loss

Scientists conducting research into hearing loss have come across a compound the regenerates cochlear hair cells, which could lead to a cure for certain kinds of deafness.

From C&EN:

The snail-shell-shaped cochlea of the inner ear contains some 15,000 hair cells that are needed for humans to hear. Audiologist dogma holds that once these cells die off, they never grow back, leading to hearing loss.

But a new study suggests that hair cell death may not be as immutable as it seems. Scientists from Harvard, MIT, Brigham & Women’s Hospital, and Massachusetts Eye & Ear Infirmary have discovered a mixture of molecules that can dramatically reverse hair cell loss in the cochleas of mice.

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LipNet: lip-reading AI uses machine learning

Lip-reading algorithms have all sorts of real-world applications, and LipNet shows great promise in machine-learning lipreading of constructed sentences from the GRID sentence corpus. Read the rest

This person designs alarm sounds to wake,warn, annoy, or otherwise alert you

Carryl Baldwin, a professor of cognition and applied auditory research, designs and tests sounds for "use as alarms in household, aviation, medical, and automotive settings." Atlas Obscura explores the art and science of making sounds that convey a spectrum of urgency:

One of the main considerations is the annoyance factor. To test for annoyance in the lab, says Baldwin, “we’ll construct sounds and we’ll look at all of the different acoustic parameters, so we might vary, for instance, intensity, frequency, the number of harmonics, how fast it ramps up and down, the temporal characteristics—like whether it’s going d-d-d-d-d-duh rapidly or duhhhh-duhhhhh-duhhhh.”

The faster an alarm goes, the more urgent it tends to sound. And in terms of pitch, alarms start high. Most adults can hear sounds between 20 Hz and 20,000 Hz—Baldwin uses 1,000 Hz as a base frequency, which is at the bottom of the range of human speech. Above 20,000 Hz, she says, an alarm ”starts sounding not really urgent, but like a squeak.”

Harmonics are also important. To be perceived as urgent, an alarm needs to have two or more notes rather than being a pure tone, “otherwise it can sound almost angelic and soothing,” says Baldwin. “It needs to be more complex and kind of harsh.” An example of this harshness is the alarm sound that plays on TVs across the U.S. as part of the Emergency Alert System. The discordant noise is synonymous with impending doom.

"An Alarm Designer on How to Annoy People in the Most Effective Ways" (Atlas Obscura) Read the rest

What it's really like to read lips

Directed by David Terry Fine and based on the essay "Seeing at the Speed of Sound" by Rachel Kolb, who narrates this short film.

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Excellent Bluetooth headphones for kids with volume limit for ear safety

Do you have kids? Here’s my advice – get these headphones by Puro Sound Labs. You won’t regret it. The number one reason to get them is for their volume-limiting ear protection. According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, “As many as 16 percent of teens (ages 12 to 19) have reported some hearing loss that could have been caused by loud noise.” And the Hearing Health Foundation says “…the problem is listening to MP3 players through earphones turned all the way up.” These headphones keep the volume below 85 dBA, the safety limit established by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).

The headphone cups and cushioning are designed to greatly reduce background noise so that your kids can listen to music and videos without having to turn up the volume to compete with traffic, airplane noise, and other sounds.

The ear safety features are reason enough to buy the headphones, but thier other features are also compelling. They have built-in Bluetooth, so no cord is needed (it comes with a cord in case you want to use the headphones with a non-Bluetooth media player). They will run for 18 hours on a single charge. They are also lightweight and made with attractive materials. They don’t look like a kid product - they are elegant and I like using them, too (though it’s a bit of a stretch to get them around my fat head). The sound quality is excellent, too. They are pre-tuned to sound their best on iOS (you can download an equalizer app to change the sound characteristics). Read the rest

Audio illusion: understanding gibberish

WHYY's The Pulse radio show visited The Franklin Institute's new exhibition "Your Brain" where chief bioscientist Jayatri Das demonstrated an incredible audio illusion. Read the rest

Hearing lips and seeing voices

This video explains the weirdness of the McGurk effect, a perceptual illusion demonstrating that understanding speech is not just about what we hear, but also what we see. You can learn more about the McGurk effect at Yale's Haskins Laboratories dedicated to the science of the spoken and written wordl. (via Imaginary Foundation) Read the rest

"I'm proud of you," deaf man signs to Obama in ASL. "Thank you," president signs back.

[Video Link] From H. Hoover at Distriction blog, a little anecdote about a cool interaction that Stephon, a young man who was "born deaf and justifiably proud," had with the president at a recent event:

Stephon stood just a few feet away from Barack Obama. The president, busy shaking hands, looked right at him. “It was like he was waiting for me to say something,” he said later.

So the 26-year-old Prince George’s Community College student took his cue and spoke to President Obama in his first language: American Sign Language. “I am proud of you,” Stephon signed. The president, almost involuntary, instinctively, immediately signed back.

“Thank you,” Obama replied.

The whole story is a nice little read.

This has nothing to do with the neat story behind this video, but I've always wondered: is being bald and steely-eyed a requirement for Secret Service agents? I mean, is it in the job description? And if they're not already bald, do they make them shave their heads? Because it seems like every one I've seen in real life, and in this video, is a steely-eyed bald guy. Someone please get back to me on that. Thanks.

(via Steve Silberman) Read the rest

29-year-old woman born deaf hears herself for the first time

[Video Link] sloanchurman says: "I was born deaf and 8 weeks ago I received a hearing implant. This is the video of them turning it on and me hearing myself for the first time :)" (Via Sean Bonner) Read the rest