Wheezing noises are commonly known and for some, an ordinary occurrence. It could also be caused by conditions like a cold or more long-term health issues like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). But a study shows some facts scientists did not discover before.

According to ScienceAlert, experts in this field do not understand why wheezing occurs. However, the said study used a combined modeling and high-resolution video to shed some light on the mechanisms of wheezing sound.

As a result, the study investigators found that there is what they described as a 'violent' process that can lead our lung pipes to produce raspy sounds.

With the availability of this information, the research team has expressed hope that wheezing might be more clearly understood and diagnosed later on.

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Science Times - Wheezing Noises: Study Sheds Some Light on Mechanisms of Such Sound
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Wheezing noises are a commonly known as an ordinary occurrence to experience, be it temporarily through a condition like cold, or more long-term through some health issues like asthma, but a study shows some facts even scientists had not discovered before.

Wheezing Puts Too Much Pressure on the Lungs

According to the United Kingdom-based University of Cambridge's engineer Alastair Gregory, since wheezing is making it harder for one to breathe, it is putting a massive amount of pressure on the lungs.

The sounds associated with wheezing, explained the engineer, have been used when making diagnoses for hundreds of years already, although the physical mechanisms accountable for the commencement of wheezing are poorly understand. More so, he elaborated, there is no model for telling ahead when wheezing is going to happen.

For the scientists to get to the bottom of wheezing, they needed to get to the flexible bronchiole tube's end. Such tubes compose the branching network in the lungs.

They devised their own lung substitute by adapting a tool known as Starling resistor that's made up of thin elastic tubes of varying thickness and length.

Wheezing Observed Through Tubes

During the investigation, air was forced through tubes at various degrees of tension and then videoed them using a multi-camera stereoscopy system.

The researchers were then able to observe whether wheezing might start and be sustained by a series of oscillations either in the lungs or in the tubes.

Gregory said it surprised them just how violent the wheezing sounds' mechanism is. In their study, which the Royal Society Open Science published, the researchers found that there are two conditions for wheezing to happen.

The first one is that the pressure on the tubes is such one or more of the bronchioles almost collapse. The second one is that air is forced through the collapsed airway, with force enough to drive oscillations.

Oscillations Sustained

In any of the cases, the study specified that oscillations are sustained through a fluttering mechanism where the air's traveling waves have a frequency similar to the tube's opening and closing.

The same kind of resonance occurrence can collapse bridges too, and lead aircraft wings to fail, showing how damaging it could be to the lungs.

The researchers continued developing a 'tube law,' factoring in the material properties, as well as the geometry of tubes, and the amount of tension they are under, to calculate when oscillations might take place.

If the law can be modified to the human lungs, the study authors said, they might then have a new way of analyzing wheezes and determining both the type and the area of severe bronchial problems.

There's more work needed for the system to be fine-tuned, and to better pick up on wheezing sounds. However, the researchers hope that a simple audio recording system could, in certain conditions, replace MRI scans and X-rays, which are costly, not to mention time-consuming to operate.

Lastly, according to engineer Anurag Agarwal, also from the University of Cambridge, since wheezing is linked to various conditions, it is challenging to be sure of what's wrong with a person, just based on the wheezing sound.

Therefore, they are working on understanding the manner wheezing sounds are produced in order for the diagnoses to be more specific.

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