The Amazing Things that Hearing Can Do
Sound is everywhere, all of the time. Almost whenever anything moves, it makes a sound. The slightest brush, scrape or tap makes a tiny vibration that becomes a small noise, and every sound carries information about the world. After millions of years of evolution, our ears have become amazing tools that bring the world to life. Here’s how.
Hearing makes your world high-resolution
Like a soundtrack can transform a movie, your ears add rich details that make life meaningful. They add details such as if there are birds flying above you, a beach up ahead, or wind blowing in the trees. Hearing can tell you if a room has a sense of atmosphere, whether it’s furnished or empty, if it is raining on the window, or if there are flames crackling in the fireplace. With good hearing, you know thousands of small details like these without looking. You simply become aware as your hearing works in harmony with all of your other senses to enrich your complete picture of the world.
We have built hearing into civilization
Because hearing has always been important to us, we’ve built our world around it. Bells mark the passage of time. Public address systems give you important information while you’re walking through a train station. Navigation apps give verbal commands so you can follow directions without looking down. Increasingly, we use electronic beeps to tell you things, such as if your food is ready, your computer is starting up, or your seatbelt is undone. Our ears help us keep things in order too. Squeaks tell us that something needs lubrication. Knocking sounds tell us that things need maintenance. Rattles tell us that something is loose. Without these simple clues and signals, life becomes a little less simple. And what’s more, sound works just as well in the daytime as in the dark.
Hearing gives you vital information
Through our ears, we get advance warning of things we can’t see, so they arrive as less of a shock – whether it’s a territorial dog barking as you walk past, or a family member entering the room behind you. In this way, hearing contributes significantly to your mental map of the world. It helps you to orientate yourself in it: to know where things are, how they’re moving, and whether they are relevant for your attention.
Sounds help us relate to other people
Of the billions of people in the world, our ears can recognize the voice of a single person. What’s more, our hearing can tell us their mood. If they’re happy, tired, or unwell, we can hear it in their voice. The tone of someone’s voice is very important too. The same words can mean completely different things depending on the speed and rising or falling intonation. The way people say words can make the difference between something being a joke and a statement. Being able to hear subtle differences is thus critical for effective communication.