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How sound defines human lives

Woman suggests hearing amplification with her hands to the ear

Sound is essential to fully experience the world around you. It can bring joy, yet it can also be a significant irritation. Our ability to hear also keeps us safe. Why and how does sound play an essential role in our daily lives? Here are some interesting facts about how humans process, interpret and react to sounds.

What is sound?

Sound alerts/informs humans and animals that something has happened far away. When something makes a sound, it creates vibrations that cause air molecules to push against each other, creating acoustic waves that travel through gas, liquids or solids. Humans perceive these waves through biological mechanisms in .

How our sense of hearing evolved

Having evolved from ocean-dwelling creatures, modern humans still process sounds through liquid. The outer ear funnels outside sound waves into the auditory canal, where the waves push against the eardrum. These vibrations move three tiny bones which amplify and transmit sound into a fluid-filled chamber in the inner ear – that then creates waves in response to the vibrations. With this movement in the fluid-filled chamber, mechanical information is changed into electrical signals that travel along the auditory nerve and up to the brain

How humans interpret sound

Sound waves consist of peaks and troughs, and the distance between them is called the wavelength. Wavelength is also depicted by frequency or Hertz (Hz). The higher the frequency, the higher the pitch. Humans interpret sounds where the waves have a mathematical relationship. For example, in music, humans enjoy chords consisting of notes that are fractions of the longest wavelength.

Our brains have the final say in how we hear. The brain organizes the sounds we’re exposed to, and once a sound has been processed and determined that it isn’t a threat, the brain filters it out, so you no longer hear things such as traffic noise or that of a fan motor

How sound keeps you safe

The ability to hear keeps you safe. For example, when you ride a bike, your hearing helps determine if other vehicles are approaching. Governments now require car manufacturers to build electric cars that make more noise than usual. Electric vehicles are very quiet, which can make them dangerous because pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers can’t hear them.

Sound in our digital lives

Sounds are also an integral part of our digital lives. Dings, rings and alarms are all programmed into our smartphones. So, who decides the sounds that our electronics make? Sound designers travel the planet looking for natural sounds that communicate meaning. Notification sounds from your phone stem from rainforests in Papua New Guinea, tribal music and the Islamic call to prayer – merging technology with culture.

Hearing clinics in Calgary, Lethbridge, Grande Prairie and High River

At Soundwave Hearing Care, we provide hearing aids and other management strategies to help you better experience your world with sound. Contact Soundwave today to schedule an appointment with an audiologist.

All the blogs are reviewed and edited by our clinic's lead audiologist, Dr. Anne Wooliams. Dr. Woolliams is an experienced audiologist specialized in pediatric audiology, auditory processing, and tinnitus/sound sensitivity therapy. She is dedicated to providing top-notch hearing care and helping her clients improve their language and communication abilities. Dr. Woolliams' expertise in literature and linguistics, combined with her passion for helping people improve their language and communication, make her an incredibly valuable asset in the field of audiology. Learn more about Dr. Woolliams.