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Characteristics of Hearing

Author: N.H. Crowhurst

As discussed earlier, the fact that we have two ears permits us to tell from which direction sound is coming. This permits us subconsciously to distinguish direct from reflected sound and to concentrate on what we wish to hear. At a live performance of a symphony, for example, we can concentrate on the sound coming to us from the orchestra and ignore the effects of reverberation. The degree to which this is true can be shown by placing a microphone in the position at which we were listening. The microphone cannot distinguish between direct and reflected sound, and a recording made in this way seems to have far too much reverberation. The sound reproduced through a loudspeaker seems quite confused because our hearing cannot separate direct and reflected sound now that they both come from one source.

Effects of live and recorded sound

The ability to concentrate in hearing permits us to carry on a conversation with one person in a crowded room. The sound of his voice is probably no louder than that of anyone else's (and certainly no louder than all of the others together), yet, by concentrating, you can hear what he is saying, almost to the exclusion of all other conversations going on around you.

Last Update: 2010-11-03