Sunday, February 8, 2009

A Scientific Hypothesis

It is no secret that my taste in music is, well, eclectic. I've never been able to fully explain why it is that I love Britney, rock out to country, and listen to Christmas music 10 months a year, especially because these music preferences don't really fit my personality. Most of my friends have very distinct tastes in music and can't understand why my auditory cortex has failed me so. And up until last week, I questioned the same thing.

Rewind to last Monday morning. The day before I embarked on a 7 hour plane ride, I realized that my trusty earphones had completely fallen apart. Now, most people would just go out and by new earphones, but I've always had a very interesting ear predicament. Namely that anything that I place in my ears with a consistency harder than a cotton ball causes a fairly intolerable amount of pain (and I have a high pain tolerance). I knew that I couldn't make this trip without my ipod, but the thought of new earphones worried me. I bit the bullet, listened to two separate people at Best Buy, and bought a pair of purple earphones that they claimed to be the most comfortable in the world.

Minutes later, I placed the new earphones in my ears and started running on the elliptical at my nearby gym. Sure enough, within about 30 seconds my ears were pulsing and I was forced to watch Friends in silence. "I have made a horrible mistake," I thought, but it was too late to correct it. I would have to grin and bear it on the plane or hope that my ears became less sensitive in the next 24 hours.

Flash forward to the plane ride. I desperately wanted to try again, but when I placed the buds in my ears, it immediately felt as though someone was attempting to stuff a lemon through my ear canal and into my brain. I took them out, and in an act of desperation, placed the left bud into my right ear and vice versa. Shockingly, placing the ear phones in the wrong ear produced absolutely no pain! I realized in that instant that I had been living for almost 26 years with misshapen (and perhaps backwards) ear canals without ever knowing it! I listened to music and watched the in flight movie with no problems, and have since been to the gym completely free of ear pain. It may sound like a slight victory, but to me this new found freedom is the equivalent of speaking in tongues.

But it did get me to thinking -- could my medical anomaly be complicating the flow of music into my brain? Is Britney's new album so appealing because my temporal lobe is getting mixed signals from my confused ear drums? I am more than willing to donate my body to science to get this all figured out. So if any of you know any neuroscience majors looking for a really kick ass (or asinine (?)) thesis, please send them my way. If anyone can save me from 20 more years of boy band reunions, I'm willing to give it a try.

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