Music is a big part of daily life but it may be for nearly as long as Humans have now been on this planet. I often point to a finding of the 40,000-year-old flute dating back to the ice age as evidence for this, but in fact, all of the proof you need is all around you, each day. We remember ballads and songs long after the people who 1st composed them have died and rotted away (a thought which I find curiously reassuring) and the music industry, love it or hate it, is always a huge business.
On the other hand, while the ice age musicians probably survived during a world of stark violence, frozen, dull wastelands and tough, ‘kill or be killed’ inter-cave politics, they never had to cope with road works, transport lorries, screaming babies or drunken crowd-rousers on their way to the stag night. Lucky buggers.
Today’s listener has to deal with all that and much more, which can make listening to the music not only difficult, but additionally dangerous.
Now, though, modern science has stumbled across a means in which you’ll be able to still listen to your favorite songs, even if you’re wearing earplugs (no, I have not been sniffing discarded paint cans once more). It’s called skeleton conduction tech and no, despite the marginally odd name, it actually doesn’t hurt…
According to recent studies, exposure to any noise over 100 decibels wears away a membrane known as a myelin sheath and leaves your internal ear liable to problems like tinnitus and temporary deafness, that may be the start of even more important problems. Bone conduction technology is made to bypass the most sensitive portions of the ear and reduce the risk of inner-ear harm.
How? Well, in order to understand that, we need to first identify with how our ears truly work. (HERE COMES THE SCIENCE-Y BIT) Essentially, noise travels though the air, these sound waves are intercepted by several structures inside the ear and are ultimately translated and transmitted into our brains (if it helps, imagine it like the encoding/decoding of digital information, like that which guides the actions of the wireless mouse).
The sound waves first encounter a piece of cartilage (yes, similar stuff that a shark’s skeleton is made of), which allows to focus the sound, this is named a pinna (but you can call it your outer ear without appearing too silly).
Then, the sound waves pass into your middle ear, this is filled up with air and also contains both your auditory canal plus your eardrum (my little brother burst his when he was little and virtually burst mine crying about it). The eardrum vibrates, passing the sound through to a ossicles, which are three small bones (that are in fact pretty essential to your sense of steadiness, I’m told). These tiny bones transmit the sound to the cochlea, that’s a fluid-filled infrastructure that ‘encodes’ the signals for our brain to ‘decode’.
Bone conduction tech vibrates the bones of the skull, sending the noise directly to a cochlea and bypassing the rest of the ear entirely. The nerve impulses transmitted to the mind are exactly the same, but the sensitive instrument of the ear doesn’t have to deal with the hassle of, to quote Anchorman’s Brick Tamland “LOUD NOISES!”
This process seems to be totally safe; actually, the legendary deaf composer Beethoven applied a rudimentary version of this method to be able to create his most famous works. He attached a rod linking his piano and his head and, as such, was able to hear the music he was playing.
So here you go, rather then exposing your sensitive ears to louder and louder volumes, to drown out the environment noise, it is possible to alternativily stick your earpugs in and play your music at the proper volume. Make no bones about it (groan!)