Most of us really don’t know how beautifully designed our auditory system is. We take it for granted, yet it took hundreds and thousands of years of evolution to develop our ability to receive sound information from our environment and to make sense of this signal. You listen to music.
You use your ears to communicate to people around you. Yet do you really know how your ears and brain work to give you the perception of sound?
Here is a list of ten cool superpowers you already have but may have forgotten:
1. Frequency tuning
Sound waves are vibrations. You are more sensitive to certain frequencies of sound than others. The basilar membrane actually has a tonotopic representation of different frequencies, and you perceive these different frequencies as different pitches. Very very high frequencies are inaudible to the human ear.
2. Temporal frequency tuning
What makes you hear one uniform sound instead of two? When two sounds are spaced quite close together in time, you may perceive these two things as one sound instead of two. This interval between the two different sounds can be small, or large. Just as a lightbulb oscillates at 60 Hertz, or 60 flashes per second but you don’t perceive this and think that this light bulb is constantly on, your brain also convinces you that two sounds that are actually “flashing” are just continuous.
3. Binaural hearing so that you can determine location —
We have two ears so that we can compare the location of the source of sound and be able to figure out the orientation and distance from us. For instance, if the source of the sound is more towards the left, we can compare the relative intensity (how loud the sound is) arriving at our left ear and our right ear and be able to determine that the source in the enrivornment of the sound is comign from the left.
4. Bone conduction
Do you know that sound can bypass your ear canal and reach your receptors in the cochlea through your bones? A clever exhibit in the Exploratorium where you can bite on a piece of metal that conducts sound shows that this indeed possible. in fact, most hearing devices now for the elderly are using this mechanism, conducting sound through the skull or through the jaws.
5. Does your heart rate respond to the beat of bpm of sound you listen to
6. Your brain fills in blind spots in sounds
7. “B” versus “P” in babies remember linguistics class– and other shortcuts
8. Emotions respond to sound? Amygdala depending on the type of sound you listen to
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