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Posted: April 29, 2011

Keeping Seniors Healthy

When Old Dental Fillings Make Music. Honest!

 

Q. I think I’m hearing talk radio in my head at night. I am awake and I can hear it when I cover my ears. Is this possible? (Truth in advertising: This question came from Gale, my spouse of 46 years, who is sound of mind, but has a mouthful of fillings and bridgework.)

A. I looked into this, and I’m convinced that Gale is picking up radio signals through her teeth. If you’ve had similar experiences, I’d like to know about them. Please write me at fred@healthygeezer.com and I’ll do a follow-up column if I get enough responses.

I came up with some fascinating stuff in my research. The following was posted on the Alaska Science Forum:

According to Robert Hunsucker, a professor emeritus at the Geophysical Institute with the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a receiver is so simple that anything from a phone to a person's mouth can act as one.

At its most basic, a receiver circuit consists of only three elements: an antenna, which picks up an electromagnetic radio signal; a detector, which is an electrical component that converts the radio wave to an audio signal the human ear can pick up; and a transducer, which is anything that acts like a speaker.

Such is the extremely rare case when a person's mouth acts as a receiver. The electrical conductivity of the human body can act as an antenna. A metallic filling in a tooth, reacting just so with saliva, can act as a semiconductor to detect the audio signal. The speaker in this case could be anything that vibrates within the mouth enough to produce noise, such as bridgework or maybe a loose filling.

Here are two cases from Straightdope.com:

Case #1. George was fitted with a cap that was attached with brass wire. Thereafter he began hearing music in his head, generally popular tunes of the day, usually while he was outdoors. The music was soft but distinct. He never heard an announcer's voice or commercials and was unable to identify what radio station, if any, he was hearing. After a year or two of this, a new dentist put in a cap without a wire and the tunes stopped.

Case #2. Lois says it happened just once, in 1947, while she was riding a train from her home in Cleveland to college in Rhode Island. The experience lasted maybe 10 minutes. She couldn't tell what station she was listening to but recalls hearing commercials and an announcer's voice. She has silver tooth fillings but doesn't recall if she'd had one put in just before the event.

From the newsgroup sci.electronics comes this tale:

“I have metal caps on both of my incisors. On one occasion, I picked up the local radio station on my capped teeth. I could not tune it at all. I could only cause the single station to come in or go out. I know it was being picked up and detected by the caps because I could make it go away either by placing my tongue against the caps or by taking my hand off of the aluminum window frame of the window I was looking out thru when I first noticed the effect.”

The TV show Mythbusters tested teeth receiving radio signals and concluded that it was a myth because the staff could not reproduce the phenomenon on the air. I read a transcript of this episode. My conclusion is that the test was inconclusive.

The Mythbusters test was inspired by a story told by Lucille Ball, who said she heard music in her mouth. You can watch her tell the entire story to TV host Dick Cavett. Just go to:  www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQCjLaSsCfI.

I’ve watched this clip several times. I don’t think Lucy was fabricating a story to entertain her audience. She seems to be relating a genuine and unsettling event in her life.

Again, if you have a story of your own, please write me at fred@healthygeezer.com. And … stay tuned.


Fred Cicetti is a freelance writer who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey. He has written two published novels: Saltwater Taffy, and Local Angles. You can send your health-related questions to Fred at fred@healthygeezer.com.

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