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New Scientist Question

Dear list,

New Scientist Magazine has a regular column called "The Last Word", where
knowledgable folk send in answers to questions posed by members of the
public.  These questions are often answered quite quickly, but there is
currently an unanswered question that has sat there since it was submitted
in November 1998.  Does anyone here have an answer?

Here's the question:
If I yawn while listening to music on my headphones, the perceived pitch
falls by about half a semitone.  The pitch can't really be going down
because it's determined by the CD and player to which the headphones are
attached. So does time slow as I yawn or is there another explanation?

Feel free to discuss the possibilities on this list, and also to submit
your answer to:  http://www.newscientist.com/lastword/lwunanswer3.jsp

My initial thoughts were that it was most likely to be:
i) a change in the filtering of the music by the ear canal, rather than an
actual change in pitch, caused by an increase in ear canal volume and
corresponding decrease in resonant frequency during yawning, and
ii) the low-pitched rumble from the fluttering contraction of the
middle-ear muscles that often occurs with yawning confusing the subject's
perception of the pitch,

...but now I'm not so sure.  I certainly don't notice a pitch change with
yawning.  Anyone else have any suggestions?

Many thanks,
Greg O'Beirne <gobeirne@cyllene.uwa.edu.au>
The Auditory Laboratory
Physiology Department
University of Western Australia

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