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In human beings, hearing is performed by the ears, which also perform the function of balance, a sense in itself but not one of the traditional list (due to Aristotle). This is in common with most mammals. Many other organisms also have some form of hearing, either by some sort of ear, or by other structures, or by a combination.
A common rule of thumb used to describe human hearing is that human hearing is sensitive in the range of frequency of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, though this varies significantly with age, occupational hearing damage, and gender; some individuals are able to hear up to 22 kHz and perhaps beyond, while others are limited to about 16 kHz. Frequencies capable of being heard by humans are called audio or referred to as sonic. Frequencies higher than audio are referred to as ultrasonic, while frequencies below audio are referred to as infrasonic.
Some organisms are able to hear ultrasound and/or infrasound. Some bats use ultrasound for echo location while in flight. Dogs are able to hear ultrasound, which is the principle of 'silent' dog whistles. Snakes sense infrasound through their bellies, and there is evidence that whales and elephants may use it for communication. See sound for hearing ranges of various organisms.
The hearing can be tested using a device or computer program called audiometer.
Arthur Reber says, 'Explaining hearing adequately has proven a singularly difficult task. One would almost ensure oneself a Nobel prize by presenting a theory explaining satisfactorily no more than the perception of pitch and loudness.' (A. S. & E. S. Reber, The Penguin Dictionary of Psychology (3rd Edn., 2001))
Localization of sound Edit
- Main article: sound localization
Humans can hear the direction of the source of a sound, sometimes with surprising accuracy. Two mechanisms are known to be used.
- The nervous system can resolve time differences as small as the time it takes sound to pass one ear and reach the other.
- For high frequencies, frequencies with a wavelength shorter than the listener's head, more sound reaches the nearer ear.
Neither of these mechanisms work as well in water, in which the speed of sound is faster than in air.
The arrival time of a sound to a particular ear is given greater weight when localizing than relative intensity, according to an observation known as the Law of the First Wavefront.
From the ear to the primary auditory cortex Edit
Axons of the vestibulocochlear nerve (auditory nerve) synapse in the cochlear nucleus of the same side. Projections lead from the cochlear nuclei to the superior olives, and the olivary nuclei continue on passing through the lateral lemniscus towards the inferior colliculi, where they synapse again on neurons that project to the medial geniculate nuclei of the thalamus, which in turn projects toward the primary auditory cortex. This Primary Auditory Cortex is located slightly below the lateral fissure between the frontal and the temporal lobes.
See also Edit
- Sensaura white papers on human hearing and emulating hearing in 3D
- flash demonstration on hearing (664 KB)
- Listening Skills How to develop listening skills.
- Compassionate Listening: An Exploratory Sourcebook About Conflict Transformation brings together Quaker, Rogerian, and Buddhist practices, encouraging each person to use the power of listening as a way of deepening their peace-making effectiveness. Free PDF, creative commons license.
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