A few weeks ago at the Tech Museum in San Jose I watched the IMAX Movie: Human Body.
The movie was filmed with microscopic photography—showing a highly-magnified version of how the human body is created (with an egg, the largest cell in the body, being fertilized by one of the smallest—pesky millions of dinky sperm that swim their hearts out trying to hit the jackpot!) and how the human body functions.
The scene of a woman’s stomach—as she swallowed partly digested food that gets doused with a bucket of yellow gooey bile—was as fascinating as it was gross.
Also gross: acne up close. A 100 times magnification of a pimple being popped: EEWWW! There were also some candid conversations with adolescents about what it’s like for them to go through puberty: scary, strange, and embarrassing. I think everyone over 13 can relate. (Another thought: Do we ever completely escape the teenage years?)
I liked watching the sweet naked babies being plopped into a swimming pool and their instinctive ability to swim underwater and hold their breath. I also enjoyed the discussion about the human brain, which is way more complex and amazing than any computer (in particular, one named Watson) could ever hope to be.
But the scene that caught my attention most was the about the human ear. Ears are extraordinary appliances. I highly value mine. Last year I wrote a blog called “Music Can Save Your Life,” about hypothetically having to choose between having sight or hearing. I could live without seeing but not without hearing music.
The ear is made up of three parts: the outer, middle, and inner sections. Remember from school the hammer, anvil, and stirrup?, which are located in the middle ear. Although they are the smallest bones in the body, their function is enormous: to push sound vibrations through a fluid into the inner ear—the cochlea.
A membrane, made up of thousands of hair-like structures, covers the cochlea. In the movie they look like thin tentacles. Some are short and stiff; some are long and limber. Sound waves move over them, which sends a signal from the cochlear nerve to the brain, allowing for us to hear the sound: volume, pitch, location, etc.
The IMAX moves shows these hair-like appendages wiggling in response to sound. The louder the sound, the more the hair cells wiggle—like undulating wheat stocks in a windstorm.
The most important (and depressing) part of the movie for me was the revelation that hair cells are formed during a limited time in the human growth cycle. They do not spontaneously regenerate once they die.
What causes them to die? Drug interactions, head trauma, infections, autoimmune diseases, and of course, prolonged exposure to loud noises or loud music.
According to the movie, the maximum number of hair cells and the maximum potential for the best hearing of our lives OCCURS DURING THE TEENAGE YEARS. After that, optimal hearing declines.
I told you that was depressing. I fear the hearing aid! I won’t be one of those old people that makes you shout at me to be heard. But I would rather age gracefully with my hearing intact.
My new motto for good health: take care of your cochlear membrane—and turn the stereo down.
Watching IMAX’s The Human Body makes you marvel and appreciate it. Highly recommended. Here’s the trailer:
I think this guy has bigger problems than hearing issues. Hey, Dude, you have no skin!