Here’s to Good Health and Ears to Good Hearing

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:

The Body Vital exhibit at the San Jose Tech Museum uses REAL body parts — that have been plasticized to prevent decomposition.

I think this guy has bigger problems than hearing issues. Hey, Dude, you have no skin!


  • I’d love to see this movie. Probably not likely in the hinterlands of Northern AZ. Losing any of our senses is hard to imagine when we’ve had them all our lives. But I agree, if I lost my sight I could still play piano and guitar by feel. I could re-learn to use my computer. But to never hear a bird again or a note of music or a baby laugh. That would be much harder for me as well.

    Thursday, March 10, 2011
  • Laura said:

    Dear Toni,

    THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for having this post! I have literally searched for this movie for years! I used to volunteer at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago back in 2000-2002. I saw ‘The Human Body’ over 10 years ago now. I instantly bought the DVD in the MSI-Chicago gift shop and (without watching the DVD)mailed to my sister who was pre-med at Ohio State. Her professor LOVED the movie and I ended up buying her another copy so she could give a copy to her professor. In any event, as we described the movie I was talking about (what I now know is the BONUS FEATURE, which was shown as the OmniMax feature film) and she only ever watched the first 12 chapters on the DVD. Same disc, different story and movie , yet both on ‘Human Body’. So our conversation about the movies never made sense or matched up AT ALL. She had no idea what I was talking about ‘British Family…hair follicles, zit pop, pregnant lady whole point of film, the car wreck in the old Mini Cooper car.”

    Then in 2012 my sister gave me the ‘Human Body’ DVD back when she was cleaning out her room. I watched the movie and FINALLY understood what she was talking about all those years ago but was discouraged that the movie (OmniMax feature on Human Body) was not on theDVD. It was a mystery! Why on Earth would the MSI gift shop peddle a movie that was NOT WHAT people had just seen and loved!

    Fast forward to 2013…My husband and I are now trying to start our own family and get pregnant, and I thought of this movie again. It was so candid, informative and concise. I was determined to find out the title of that OmniMax movie and figure out what was shown in the theater that I KNOW I saw in Chicago! I called and talked to the assistant curator for the OmniMax movies. He said, “Ohhh yes you are thinking of The Human Body.” I said, “No I have a copy of that DVD and it is NOT the same as what I saw in the theater. I thought it was ‘The Human Body too, but I have that DVD and it is not a match.” So he was mystified and insisted that they would help to get to the bottom of finding out title and helping me to solve this 10 year riddle.

    Determined I continued my internet search. I then found YOUR website and you described the OmniMax movie that I actually SAW in full detail. The zit, the baby in the pool, the salad in stomach. I was screaming, “YES there is someone on the planet who has seen this movie and ACTUALLY knows the title.” Then I read, “The Human Body.” OMG I own that movie. Something was not adding up. I put the movie into my computer and BAMMM up pops the Chapters 1-12 are another movie/documentary on Human Body and then there is the BONUS FEATURE that is MY ‘HUMAN BODY’ movie that I had in my head and saw in Chicago back in 2001.

    Thanks for connecting the dots. My DVD cover is different too, but BONUNS FEATURE was the same!



    Friday, June 21, 2013
  • Hi Laura —
    Enjoyed your comment — great story! Glad to be of help.
    I think of this movie every time I stuff much and I picture the horrid gastric sludge pool churning in my belly. (Not a pretty sight.)
    Good luck with the baby making. 🙂 Maybe he/she will be a swimmer. Didn’t you love the “newborn infants swimming in the pool” segment? The expressions on their faces — pure baby joy!

    Saturday, June 22, 2013
  • mark said:

    when was this movie made?? anyone know? I saw it yesterday…can’t find any info on it…it’s cool

    Sunday, November 24, 2013