Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon or Two Little Cilia in a Cochlear Canal

We are at Purdue today for Dave’s doctoral thesis defense. The tittle of his thesis is “The Effects of Hair Cell Specfic Dysfunction on Neural Coding in the Auditory Periphery”. In layman’s terms ‘Auditory Periphery’ are the ears. Hair cells are nerve cells with little cilia or hairs on them that vibrate with sound. There are two kinds, inner and outer hair cells. People experience outer hair cell loss from too much loud noise and inner hair loss from old age. The neural coding is the process that these hair cells use to allow us to hear. The specific dysfunction is when Dave uses toxic drugs to kill either the inner or outer hair cells. Dave concluded that standard hearing tests are insufficient for determining hearing loss. The gold standard test, a single tone in a sound proof room, underreports hearing loss, because the ears gang together multiple hair cells to better hear with, the loss of some hair cells is frequently masked in this kind of test. A better test would be to simulate the so called cocktail party scenario, where there is lots of background noise and the loss of some hair cells is much more apparent. Dave presented for about an hour. He was very well poised in his delivery. The audience was composed of the four members of his thesis committee, one of who participated via Skype. Including us there there were about twenty audience members. Dave answered lots of “great questions”, then we were ushered out of the room and the committee grilled him in private. Dr. Dave passed! Let the party begin!

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