NPR

Tinnitus and other ear problems

Tinnitus: Why Won’t My Ears Stop Ringing?

NPR’s Nancy Shute describes tinnitus and the current state of work on getting rid of it.

For the past eight months I’ve had ear problems that are similar although more vexing because various doctors can’t figure out what it is.

One morning I woke up with an allergy-caused runny nose. It went away quickly but my ears felt clogged like I had some water in them from a shower. That clogged feeling changed in small ways, one ear feeling more clogged than the other but it never went away. This problem makes it quite difficult to know where a sound is coming from because my stereo hearing is now un-calibrated. It also makes hearing a phone conversation tougher because high end noise is breaking up, like distortion from a cheap speaker.

I eventually went to our doctor because I had to fly and I was scared I’d rupture an ear drum. We tried a steroid to kill what might have been a sinus infection fast for the flight but the ear problems remained and I cancelled the flight. Went to an ENT (ear, nose and throat doctor) and had my hearing tested and my ears examined further. No recommendation except time. Two months passed and no change and it was really driving me nuts and I decided to go to another ENT who happens to be an old friend of ours. This ENT told me authoritatively that I could fly because the problem wasn’t causing my eustachian tubes to close. I did fly and had no problem except the plane’s engine noise was more annoying than usual and I used noise canceling headphones to drown it out.

My doctor ordered a CAT scan of my sinus which showed nothing wrong. The second ENT thinks it might be a problem with my cochlea but he’s not sure. So, three doctors visits and an expensive CAT scan later the only thing I’ve learned is that I can fly, but the problem persists.

Since then I’ve flown numerous times and the pressurization has never bothered my ears. The problem remains and at times it drives me crazy. While this probably isn’t tinnitus (I don’t hear ringing) I have empathy for anyone suffering from that problem. The part of this NPR piece that piques my interest is the idea that an initial problem can leave an imprint on a brain and even though the problem is gone one might continue to suffer with it because the brain attempts to adapt to it. Whether this is true in my case or not my guess is that this happens with many physiological problems.

Silk Road: Not Your Father’s Amazon.com

Silk Road: Not Your Father’s Amazon.com

Silk Road (anonymous marketplace), Tor (anonymity network), Bitcoin. If you’ve never heard of this stuff listen to this NPR: All Things Considered piece on Silk Road, an e-commerce site that sells cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and marijuana, among other illegal drugs.

Rachel Martin interviews Adrian Chen, a Gawker staff writer. The original Gawker article by Chen is here: The Underground Website Where You Can Buy Any Drug Imaginable.

I have no interest in the drugs but the technology is fascinating. Where there’s a market, there’s a way.

A Curious Case of Foreign Accent Syndrome

A Curious Case Of Foreign Accent Syndrome

This is quite amazing. Listen to the piece, it will blow your mind.

Karen Butler, an American with a “neutral” American accent had dental surgery and came out of it with a Scottish brogue. Listen to her answering machine message and her current accent.

I heard this a while back when NPR first broadcast it and put it in my Instapaper collection for another listen. Just listened again. Amazing.

Creation myth

Malcolm Gladwell Looks at Technology Innovations

Robert Siegel (All Things Considered) and Malcolm Gladwell look at the mythic story of how Steve Jobs toured Xerox PARC in 1979 and came away with the basic ingredients of the Macintosh computer. This is a brief discussion of a piece Gladwell has in the May 16th issue of The New Yorker.

PARC = Palo Alto Research Center. Xerox PARC was a think tank much like IBM’s Watson Research Center or MIT’s Media Lab and the folks at PARC developed some of the fundamental tools of personal computing but they never made these tools commercial, they were expensive prototypes that Xerox had no way to turn into products.

Some think Jobs stole the ideas but Gladwell (and others including me) think he took the essence of the ideas and simplified and improved them and found ways to engineer them so they were affordable.

Technically speaking, it wasn’t only Jobs who was on the tour that day, it was also Bill Atkinson who designed much of the original Macintosh user interface and underlying operating system along with other members of the original Macintosh Team at Apple. Atkinson has said numerous times that he got the idea for overlapping windows on the PARC tour but the way he did it on the Macintosh (the programming) was totally different from anything the folks at PARC knew about. This underscores Gladwell’s point about the difference between being first, and being first with a viable product.