Sound file which unblocks ears?
January 8, 2009 12:37 PM   Subscribe

About 4 years ago, I stumbled across a sound file which could be played from a web page which instantly opened ears/Eustachian tubes which had been blocked. The page was very simple ("I made this file which runs through sound frequencies, one for each ear, play"). I can't find this page or file today. Does anyone remember this or know of anything like this on the web? Thanks.
posted by Riverine to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
There is no possible mechanism by which this could work. You realize that, right? Are you just looking for this as a gag, or seriously?

unless you play the sound at say, 160dB or somewhere well above the pain threshold and damage your inner ear in the process

You can unclog your ears by opening your mouth wide and moving your jaw, in most cases. If they are persistently blocked, you may have an infection and should see a doctor.
posted by fourcheesemac at 1:14 PM on January 8, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm with fourcheese - I can't imagine any way how this could work. Sound waves lead to tiny ear hairs moving to create similarly tiny electrical impulses. "Blocked" ears result from your eustechian tubes (which connect your inner ear to your nose and the back of your throat) being blocked or not opening properly, usually due to a mucous buildup. This allows a pressure difference to build up between the air in your inner ear (and just inside your eardrum) and the outside world, making the eardrum bulge in or out slightly, which feels uncomfortable and may vibrate differently, making everything sound weird. There's no way a sound could get rid of that pressure difference unless it makes you swallow or yawn or, as fourcheese suggested, perforates your eardrum.

Open your mouth and the back of your throat as if to do a really big, loud yawn (actually do a really big yawn if you can). This will open your eustechian tubes, letting your ears unpop. They should also open briefly when you swallow, or you can force air in by closing your mouth, pinching your nose then trying to breathe out.

If none of these work and you don't have a cold whose mucous could be blocking your tubes -- and definitely it's causing you any pain -- you might want to chat to a nurse, pharmacist or doctor.

And the standard disclaimer: I am a biologist but I'm not a doctor or medic of any kind, and I'm definately not qualified to give any kind of medical advice. If you're worried or in pain, talk to a medic.
posted by metaBugs at 1:43 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

Uh, what fourcheesemac said. Learn the Valsalva manoeuvre.
posted by katrielalex at 1:43 PM on January 8, 2009

When I tried it four years ago, it worked within seconds. The frequency seemed to shift the membranes enough to release pressure.

Could I please have responses to my actual question? Thank you.
posted by Riverine at 1:49 PM on January 8, 2009

No need to get snarky. You asked a question based on a mistaken -- patently wrong -- premise, and people have tried to answer you honestly by pointing our the mistaken premise. If all you want is a web link, then google it.

Or here: you can download one of many applications that generate a full range of frequencies. This is a simple sinusoidal frequency generator. Try every frequency between 20KHz and 22KHz. One of them is bound to be magic. Go to town. I suggest incrementing it upwards in 10-cent intervals so you don't miss the miracle frequency by accident.

Confirmation bias is the source of many false claims of efficacy in alternative medicine. See "homeopathy."

The frequency did not work to unclog your ears, you only think it did because they seemed to become unclogged at that moment for some other reason. As all of us have said, and clearly at least two of us know the science here, there is *no way* any "specific frequency" could unclog your ears, let alone one specific frequency or tone working to unclog any given blocked eustachian tube on any individual caused by any of the many things that might cause the sensation of blockage. The hearing mechanism is simple, well understood, and easy to look up. You would, of course, have to read the scientific account with an open and rational mind for it to be of any value to you.

Believe whatever you want. But the physical and biological facts don't lie and you can't change them. If you want to be sold a line of bullshit, and you really just want a link, here's a quack medicine site advertising for "sound therapy" for blocked ears. They claim you need an entire music therapy regimen. There's no end to the nonsense people will believe about their own bodies.

It always annoys me when AskMe questioners get offended at other people making good faith attempts to respond to their question because they aren't getting the answer they wanted. It happens a lot with alt med questions, especially. You can't ask a question that has no factual basis and expect anything else. This is no place to reprise the anecdotal-confirmation bias vs. scientifically valid explanation controversy that besets all alternative medicine discussions.

posted by fourcheesemac at 2:10 PM on January 8, 2009 [18 favorites]

Or here's a sound wave generator that provides a "sweep frequency" mode. This way you won't have to sit there incrementing the frequency painstakingly over many hours. Just listen to a full sweep through the range of human hearing, and you're bound to encounter the magic frequency. When your ears unblock, note the approximate frequency range and then keep incrementing within that til you're satisfied.

Yes, I'm being facetious. But I'm just answering your question.
posted by fourcheesemac at 2:19 PM on January 8, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'd like to add that while flexing your jaw to relieve pressure, take hold of both ears close to the lobe with your thumb and forefinger and gently pull down. I find it comforting when attempting to unclog my ears without resorting to pseduophedrine.
posted by mrmojoflying at 2:56 PM on January 8, 2009

Sounds suspiciously like a sinus (not to be confused with sinusoidal) version of "The Brown Note" which can instantly make someone poop their pants (as seen on South Park and debunked on Mythbusters).

If there was any basis in science, I'd say it would have to do with standing waves attuned to the specific frequencies/size/shape of the human head and sinuses. If you've ever experienced a standing wave in a room, they can be pretty overwhelming - they're the acoustical version of tidal waves. Since the head is designed as one big resonator, it's conceivable that there's a frequency that will rattle your sinuses. [ref, ref]

You know how when you hum or play a kazoo, there's that one frequency that's really, really annoying and seems to vibrate your head, especially near the nose? I'd wager that humming that specific frequency would also clear the sinuses if you did it loud/long enough, similar to how a specific frequency can make a glass vibrate so much it would shatter.

I'd look for a frequency in the 400hz to 800hz range, which roughly covers the human voice over one octave. You can even try just, well, humming and seeing what happens. You can make one of those "onion paper over comb" kazoos to increase the strength of the vibration.

For some visual examples of what standing waves can do, check out these videos:
posted by Muffy at 3:04 PM on January 8, 2009

Could this be similar to what you are looking for? It's not a "simple page" as you said in your question, but maybe what you want is included here:

Can't see how the poster deserves to be called snarky, and if in fact they are, it's well deserved. The question was not: Will this work? It was: Can you find this link? That's a question with a factual answer.

I'm all in favor of adding opinions to answers where you think it will help, but I think for AskMe to work you need to try to answer the original question first, and add the opinion, rather than just deriding a belief and ignoring the factual part of the question. Otherwise you get into derail situations.
posted by lockedroomguy at 3:07 PM on January 8, 2009 [9 favorites]

For the record, there are practitioners of "Sound Therapy". Amongst their modalities are blocked tubes and tinnitus.

I couldn't get the fuxiwen site to work, but it may not play well with firefox.

My ENT recommended this tool a while back. For the record, only use it with warm water or you'll get dizzy. It's not a sound file, but if you've got a wax blockage or anything that can be removed without medical intervention, this is an inexpensive way to do it.

Again; not a sound thing, a mixture of equal measures of cherry oil (jojoba would work too), tea tree and lavender oil helps me when my ears start to get stuffy. Memail me if you need help finding that stuff, I have a ton on hand, I'd be glad to hook you up. I know the aggravation of ear problems, and it's the suck.
posted by dejah420 at 7:27 PM on January 8, 2009

None of the links given are the actual match, but I will experiment with the Fuxiwen when I'm on a computer with QT installed.

Special thanks to those of you who answered the question I asked.
posted by Riverine at 10:20 AM on January 10, 2009

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