Mouse wheel vs. left ear - what?
March 12, 2010 7:44 PM   Subscribe

Why does my left ear pop with each click of a mouse's scroll wheel?

Much of the time, and on/in lots of different computers/environments, every click of a mouse wheel creates a little pop (the familiar altitude/congestion kind) in my left ear. I'm a righty, but a couple of nights ago I sat down to the left of my wife while she was typing, in a chair totally unconnected to her or our pc station thingie, and when she clicked the scroll wheel my ear went all nutso.

What gives? It's pretty freaky...
posted by mintcake! to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Completely coincidence. Or you subconsciously hear it and flex your jaw.
posted by sanka at 8:05 PM on March 12, 2010


I noticed that when I have my computer speakers turned up (but no music), scrolling my mouse will sometimes produce clicks through the speakers. Any chance you are hearing something external like this? (But then your wife should hear it too...)
posted by SarahbytheSea at 8:15 PM on March 12, 2010


I'll assume you have an LCD screen.

The appearance of each pixel on an LCD screen is controlled by voltage applied to two electrode layers which have the LCD layer sandwiched between them.

When the mousewheel is clicked the screen changes in some way, right?

This means that the voltages in the electrodes change, and that in turn causes the entire screen itself to flex like a capacitance based speaker panel would.

The flexing generates a subsonic pulse which causes your ear to pop.
posted by jamjam at 8:44 PM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you take-apart the mouse, there's usually a bit that can be removed, and voila, noiseless scroll wheel.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 9:21 PM on March 12, 2010


This means that the voltages in the electrodes change, and that in turn causes the entire screen itself to flex like a capacitance based speaker panel would.

The flexing generates a subsonic pulse which causes your ear to pop.


If you mean this as a joke, it's not very helpful.

If you mean it seriously, it's not very helpful, either. It's nonsense. "Capacitance based speaker panel"? What the hell?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:34 PM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


only one way to tell if its nonsense: turn off the monitor, then click the mouse.
posted by davejay at 11:06 PM on March 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


If you mean this as a joke, it's not very helpful.

If you mean it seriously, it's not very helpful, either. It's nonsense. "Capacitance based speaker panel"? What the hell?

Electrostatic speakers are essentially capacitance based:

Electrostatic speaker is like large plate capacitor. It has capacitance about 0,5 to few nanofarads.

Now that I've cleared that up for you, perhaps you could reciprocate by helping me understand what you're so mad about.
posted by jamjam at 11:19 PM on March 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


There are forms of tinnitus that manifest as clicking sounds.
In the same environment, get her to tap a pencil on the desk near the mouse, to
to simulate the high frequencies of the mouse. Do you still hear these clicks?
posted by the Real Dan at 11:27 PM on March 12, 2010


Hi.

I have mild tinnitus in the form of a light buzzing sound when I'm in a quiet room. And occasionally, say over 1 or 2 months, I will experience a 5 second episode where it feels like there's something in my right ear and it is loose, i.e. as if it is resonating with an external source of sound. Typically the trigger of this is something nearby and of moderate volume, such as a piano key being pressed. But this happens so rarely to me that I haven't bothered investigating it in more detail.

If your "pop" feels more like the altitude kind, it probably has to do with your eustachian tube.
You might consider seeing your doctor or an ENT specialist about this sometime.

More immediately, make sure you stay hydrated and get enough sleep. See if there's any improvement.

Good luck with this! To both of us! :)
posted by polymodus at 12:49 AM on March 13, 2010


@jamjam

1. This means that the voltages in the electrodes change, ...

How do you know this. Do you have a citatation? Because random engineer at Matsushita Electrical wrote:

In order to protect the liquid crystal material from deteriorating, cells are addressed by alternating current (AC), not direct current (DC). There is no resultant charge in the liquid crystal (LC) material following two addressing cycles; build up of charge in the LC material will permanently damage it.

2. that in turn causes the entire screen itself to flex like a capacitance based speaker panel would.

An electrostatic speaker has to be made with a special diaphragm that permits physical distortion. Contrasting, in an LCD, you have little cells of Liquid Crystal between the two electrode matrices. They do do not "flex" very well at all in the way a coherent sheet of polyester would.

3. ... the flexing generates a subsonic pulse which causes your ear to pop.

If it were subsonic (traveling through the air and/or the desk in front of the LCD), it would be low energy, so the ear would not perceive a pop. Moreover the change in pressure would be too small and too transient (lasting less than .5 s) for this to affect the human Eustachian tube.

4. And finally, you don't address the OP's unique circumstances, being:
a) it's happening to the OP but not others with him
b) it's happening on various displays, not just once in particular
c) it's happening when a scroll wheel is being clicked. Scroll wheels are weird, poorly designed widgets. We can apply Occam's razor here; before wracking our minds into a Rube Goldberg-esque chain of reasoning, let's just start with maybe the wheel is emitting an unfortunate frequency.

Admit it. You were going for (Fe)Male Answer Syndrome. I hereby call you out for it.

There's a simple experiment for the OP to try. Click the scroll wheel while the computer equipment is turned off.
posted by polymodus at 1:59 AM on March 13, 2010


Does your ear pop if you roll the wheel on a mouse that isn't plugged in?

Does it pop if you hold the mouse in your left hand?

Does it pop if you hear a sound that's a bit like a mouse wheel? (Tap the desk with a pencil, maybe?)

If you make a recording of a mouse wheel turning and play it back, does your ear still pop?
posted by Mwongozi at 5:41 AM on March 13, 2010


Yikes, thanks for all the input, folks. Data points:

* Happens at LCD screens as well as CRTs.
* Turned off monitor & speakers, then the CPU & everything else, then unplugged the mouse from the CPU. Still popping.
* Tapping a pencil or other rubber object on the desk doesn't produce popping.

It does >not< happen while I'm at my laptop using my portable mouse, which has a hard plastic scroll wheel as opposed to the usual rubber kind.

I was kind of hoping this was a more common thing. I might check in with an ENT just to satisfy my curiosity/make sure I'm not doing any damage or anything. Thanks again.
posted by mintcake! at 3:30 PM on March 13, 2010


if it helps, i have it too, albeit pretty rarely, and only when its completely silent around me.
posted by freddymetz at 7:10 PM on March 13, 2010


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