Dr Owen Brimijoin is a Senior Investigator Scientist at the Scottish Section of the MRC Institute of Hearing Research in Glasgow, where his research investigates the relationship between hearing and the dynamic three-dimensional world around us. He showed Jane Bunce around his shared office at the Royal Infirmary in Glasgow, where his desk is no stranger to Lego.
© MRC/Douglas Robertson
© MRC/Douglas Robertson
People’s ability to tell where sounds are coming from declines with hearing impairment, and understanding speech in noisy rooms becomes harder. One in six people in the UK have a level of hearing loss that warrants a hearing aid, but they often don’t perform as well as desired. We examine this in four soundproof rooms of varying sizes, with floating floors, double steel doors and the walls covered with foam to suppress sound reflections. We use loudspeaker systems in these to control the source of the sound precisely or play multiple sounds from different directions, to simulate environments like a noisy restaurant.
Once you’re at full capacity running experiments you can’t go into the booths because they are booked up, so all the programming and testing for the next experiment has to happen here at my desk. So this is a mock-up of the system that runs the big ring of loudspeakers in one of our soundproof booths. Read more
Tony Colman (Image copyright: Hospital Records)
We know that exposure to loud noise can lead to hearing loss, with working in noisy environments long known as a culprit. But what effect has loud music had on the population’s hearing? Today we’re launching a mass participation study to see how our listening past affects our hearing present. Here Tony Colman, drum & bass DJ and co-founder of the Hospital Records label, tells us how exposure to loud music has affected his hearing ― and why you should take part in our online experiment so scientists can find out more.
How long have you been DJing for?
I’ve only been DJing for 17 years — before that I was playing guitar in several bands. I’ve been making music in the studio for 30 years.
What do you estimate your exposure to loud music to be?
It totally varies day to day. Many days nothing at all — at gigs, a lot — but I stuff my ears with silicone earplugs when I’m not playing myself.
Tell us about when you first realised you had tinnitus.
It was after we did a Hospital Records album launch at a drum & bass night called Movement at Bar Rumba in Piccadilly Circus. I remember thinking “what’s that ringing sound?”, and then I knew what it was. The system on that night was stupidly loud and I remember almost feeling pain in my ears. Read more
Alan volunteering at The Big Bang Fair (Copyright: Alan Boyd)
Who are the Naked Scientists? And what’s it like to work with them? Alan Boyd, a PhD student from the MRC Institute for Hearing Research in Glasgow, found out on an eight-week MRC-funded foray into their audio world.
Call it what you will: science journalism; science communication; public engagement with science. Whatever the name, it’s about taking sometimes abstract, often difficult and almost always important discoveries in scientific research and making them accessible to the general public.
Over the past 10 years, the multi-award winning Naked Scientists radio show, podcasts, websites and live shows have become a major conduit through which people around the world receive their weekly dose of science.
The Naked Scientists occupy an office and a cupboard in the Department of Pathology at the University of Cambridge. Upon starting my internship, three things were clear. Firstly, this office had windows. As a PhD student in the depths of a hospital, that’s something I’d long ago dismissed as an unfathomable luxury. Secondly, lab meetings were to be replaced by strong coffee and continuously tight deadlines, flanked by publishing embargoes (which I nearly broke at least twice) and preparation for the radio show on a Sunday evening. Thirdly, the Naked Scientists remain disappointingly unfaithful to their name… Read more