CAMDEN Can't hear? Turn up the white noise, says a team of Rutgers-Camden professors who have produced a mathematical explanation for the benefits of noise. Their findings could lead to major improvements in hearing aid technology.
Dawei Hong, an assistant professor of computer science, Joseph Martin, a professor of biology, and William Saidel, an associate professor of biology, are working together to explain the biological benefits of noise through mathematics. Although the Rutgers-Camden team did study noise in the auditory system, "noise" can also refer to not just what we hear, but a randomness that is essential to all life.
"There is no life without noise; noise is the secret of life," suggests Martin, who points to the constant movement of particles under a microscope to illustrate this phenomena. Unlike a physics experiment that can produce the same result after various attempts, in biology, one particular experiment can yield a multitude of outcomes.
This randomness, however, isn't problematic, but a necessary function for survival. Until now, the role of randomness in sustaining life has been a great and unsolved problem. The collaborative research underway at Rutgers-Camden has led to new understanding of how living organisms might exploit randomness for important processes of sensory processing and cell to cell communication.
In terms of hearing, the Rutgers-Camden research team's mathematical theory improves previous knowledge by offering a single explanation of the properties of noise in hearing under different conditions. To develop the theory, Hong used a variation on the wavelet technique, which he says is responsible for clarifying the JPG image. The findings could have numerous applications most obviously in treating hearing loss by artificially increasing the amount of noise in the cochlea of the inner ear, perhaps by an implanted device.