Hearing radio through the teeth

In reference to this post .

When I was a teen, complete with braces on my teeth, the hot rock radio station in Houston was KILT, 610 AM. I lived less than a mile from the studio and it was a great place to go hang out. Sometimes the DJ would open the back door and let us into the studio.

Anyway, whenever I was very close to their building, like in the parking lot, I would receive them on my braces. My friends thought it was a total blast that I could hear the radio without a radio, so to speak. It was considered great fun to turn off all the transistor radios and wait for the next song to come on. I would identify it and then everyone would turn on the radios and marvel at the fact that I had heard it. To my young and stupid teenage mind, it was the only positive thing about having braces.

Good times, good times. :slight_smile:

One time, I had just finished some lemonade, and I felt some buzzing in my teeth. I found that if my teeth on the left side (with metal fillings) were held slightly apart with some of my acidic spit in between, the buzzing would happen. I figured it was radio.

Apparently my mother was picking up a very faint radio signal through some dental work decades ago. At first she thought she was losing it, especially as she really couldn’t hear it unless she were alone in a quiet situation. When her dentist said it was entirely possible she was picking something up she felt a lot better…

The team at Mythbusters (TV show on Discovery) busted this myth using the Lucille Ball story as a basis for the experiment. Check out the episode if you get a chance.

This was a terrible segment. While the particular Lucy story is no doubt bunk, the physics is really simple. They displayed great ignorance in how a crystal radio works. You don’t need a battery to pick up radio folks. I listened to radio stations 2 thousand miles away on a crystal radio as a kid.

And … I once got AM in my right ear after biting down hard on a peppercorn and jammed a filling.

Right, for AM. All that is required is a device that conducts better in one direction than the other and something loose enough or flexible enough to vibrate at audio frequencies. The non-linear device detects the audio and the loose or flexible part makes the audio audible via bone conduction of the sound.

FM is a little trickier. You need something that changes the amplitude of signals of different frequencies. This makes a crude AM of the FM. Then proceed as above to hear the sound. I don’t believe I have ever heard of anyone picking up an FM broadcast in this way.

In college, I lived on the top floor of our high-rise dorms, roughly level with the transmission antenna for the student radio station, which was a fairly low power (1150 watt) FM station. Although I couldn’t receive it with my teeth, we did receive it in just about every other unshielded electronics device that could make noise- unshielded speakers, TV stations turned to vacant channels, modems, answering machines, phones, you name it… if it had a battery, a length of wire, and a speaker, it would come in as interference, although softly.

Once, when I had my braces on, we went to Mount Wilson (the mountain behind Los Angeles on which all the radio and television transmitters were built). I could clearly hear some broadcast in my mouth when standing directly under the transmitters. Never any other time, though.

Bob Burket
Santa Monica, California